RICHMOND'S slim finals hopes were cruelly smashed away by Dandenong Panthers import Steven Mullaney in Premier Cricket on Saturday.
Mullaney made 65 not out to steer his side to an outright victory over Richmond at Shepley Oval.
The result, which looked like it could be a reverse outright when the Panthers fell to 5-45 chasing 107, moved the Panthers from 10th place at the start of the round to fourth position and a home quarter-final this weekend when they host St Kilda at Shepley Oval. Panthers captain Darren Pattinson pulled his hamstring while bowling but believes he will be fit enough to play against the Saints.
The Panthers started the day needing just under 50 runs to get first innings points and they scored them with ease. Vice-captain Tom Donnell got to 88 not out when the home side declared on 1-151.
The Tigers, who still held an outside hope of snatching the reverse outright and possibly moving into the top eight, pressed for runs but were soon in trouble in their second innings on 2-22. Then middle-order pair Andrew Delmont (33) and Daniel Sartori (37) kept the scoreboard moving but Panthers bowlers Justin Butterfield (5-33) and James Nanopoulos (3-20) secured wickets as the visitors were bowled out for 138 from 33 overs, leaving the Panthers just 107 to win.
Yet returning Tigers captain Allan Wise (2-20) took two early scalps as the Panthers fell to 5-47 before Mullaney and Nanopoulos (18 not out) made sure their side came out on top.
Mullaney hit 14 runs from three balls in what turned out to be the penultimate over of the match.
Pattinson said his side had shown its quality when it mattered most. "Getting the outright is obviously huge for us, especially when it takes us to fourth place," he said.
"We looked a bit shaky there early in the run chase but Steven never got rattled and when wickets fell around him he stayed at the crease and took us to victory.
"He is a professional player with Surrey and he has been in these situations before and knows how to play out of them so we were very happy with him and Nano today."
Pattinson also commended Butterfield for his efforts.