The Cessnock District Cricket competition completed its penultimate round last Saturday in ideal conditions for good cricket.
In first grade Mulbring wrapped up the minor premiership following their four-wicket victory over Greta/Branxton in the top-of-the-table clash at Miller Park.
Greta/Branxton won the toss and elected to bat, and at one stage were 8-80 and in all sorts of trouble. This was before a 73-run ninth wicket stand between Kyle Hall (36no) and Martin Shearer (30no) put some respectability back in the scorecard.
Josh Dagg (31) and Greg Andrews (12) were the only other batsmen to reach double figures. Sam Apthorpe was the pick of the Mulbring attack with 4-37 off 10.
The match appeared to be very evenly poised at the drinks interval of the Mulbring run chase when they were 4-70, but it was Ben Neaves (43no) and Josh Lewis (32) who took the game away from the Blues.
The Marlins eventually reached the target in the 36th over with still four wickets in hand. Opener Drew Olsen (31) and skipper Cameron Ross (23) also played important roles in the win.
Martin Shearer had the ball on a string for the Blues with 2-32 off 10.
The win puts Mulbring 11 points clear at the top of the ladder going into the final round bye, where they will wait to see if they will meet Bellbird or Peden's Hotel in the semi-final at Mulbring Oval the following week.
Wine Country finally picked up their long-awaited first win of the season when they upset Bellbird by two wickets at Carmichael Park.
Bellbird were all out in the final over for 166 batting first. Most batsmen made starts without pushing on, with Scott Miller (37), Ben Fairlie (36), Jason Orr (26), Joey Millington (16) and Joey Barber (14) all contributing.
Sam Peacock bowled beautifully for the visitors, bagging 5-22 off 6.4 overs, with former skipper Luke Jeans (2-44 off 10) and Ben Wood (2-25 off 8) supporting well with a brace of wickets each.
The Wood Ducks achieved the target with 16 balls remaining and two wickets in hand.
Jeans completed a fine all-round performance with an unbeaten 43, receiving good support from Tom Page (30), Dean Elliott (26), Peacock (18) and Matt Lightfoot (16no).
Barber (3-44 off 10) and Zach Kronholm (3-50 off 9) were the Tigers' best two with the ball with a treble of wickets each, with Miller also completing a fine all-round game with 2-27 off 10 very economical overs.
Wine Country are out of the semi-final race, but can alter the final placings if they can upset Peden's Hotel at Allandale this Saturday.
Bellbird will take on Greta/Branxton at Carmichael Park, with the club championship still on the line.
Peden's Hotel had the bye.