A CAREER day from Oakleigh bowler Michael Splatt handed the Oaks a first-innings win over Ivanhoe at Warrawee Park Oval in the Victorian Sub District Cricket Association on Saturday.
Splatt took 6-15 from 11 overs with five maidens as the Oaks bowled out Ivanhoe for just 49.
They then had their own struggles before finishing play on 8-121 from 48 overs. Brent Warren (28 not out) and Splatt (35) formed a key partnership for the eighth wicket to make sure the Oaks weren't bowled out.
Going into the match, the Oaks were a game clear on top of the VSDCA ladder. The first-innings points should have them finish on top and have home ground advantage for the whole finals series.
Oaks playing coach Brendan McGuinness praised Splatt for his efforts.
"That was the best I've ever seen him bowl," he said. "It was an amazing spell.
"I think he went for seven runs in his last over, so his figures before then were something like 6-8.
"He has been threatening all season and been working hard on a few things since preseason, so I'm rapt he got such a big reward."
After Ivanhoe won the toss and batted on a typically flat Oakleigh pitch with a fast outfield, the Oaks thought they might be in for a long day. But the home side soon had the visitors in trouble at 7-23 and only a few overs of good defence from the Ivanhoe tail allowed their score to pass 40.
"It was one of the most bizarre days of cricket I've been involved in," McGuinness said. "The conditions were really good for batting. We would have batted if we had won the toss.
"With the wickets we lost I think it was a combination of some good bowling and some poor decision-making on our behalf.
"But Splatt and Warren consolidated the innings at the end and got us over the line."
Despite being all but safe as the minor premiers, the Oaks won't take their foot off the pedal heading into the finals.
"We can't take anything for granted," McGuinness said. "We'll try to make the most of the situation this Saturday and go for the maximum points available."
Play resumes at Warrawee Park Oval at noon this Saturday.