A FLAWLESS innings from Cameron Gregg has Dederang well placed in its two-day clash with Howlong.
The middle-order batsman shared a 100-plus stand with Tom Barel (51) to help the Demons set a 240 run target for the Spiders next week.
Captain Andrew Creamer said it was critical his team had a win before Christmas.
Last year’s beaten grand finalist lost in the last over to Eskdale and two other losses have it at the bottom of the District cricket table heading into the last game before the break.
“This is a very important game for us and our season — we need to win here to have any real chance of playing in the finals,” he said.
“But at 5-122, things didn’t look great.
“Gregg then played beautifully and, in the end, was run out in the last over of the day.
“Barel is an all-rounder but he hasn’t really got going this year with the bat.
“His 50 was important to him and the team.
“It really was a critical partnership that gives us something to defend next week.”
But Creamer believes his team must bowl out Howlong or lose the match.
“The key will be early wickets,” he said.
“The pitch at Dederang always has a bit of juice in it in the first 10 to 15 overs and that was no different on Saturday.
“But it is pretty placid after tea and gives the batting team a chance to chase late runs.
“If they bat the 70 overs, they will probably get the runs so we need to bowl them out or at least be well into their tail.”
Creamer said teenage rookie Joel Heiner was a key to the Demons chances.
The 17-year-old was promoted to A grade this season and finished with 1-10 off five overs against Kiewa last round.
“He’s a big kid, a left-armer who has improved out of sight recently,” Creamer said.
“He started in B grade but we brought him in to A grade and, while he hasn’t a lot of wickets, he has probably been a little unlucky in recent matches.”
Elsewhere Al Randell and Ashan Ranaweera took a bag of wickets as Mount Beauty rolled Barnawartha-Chiltern for 107 at the top end of the Kiewa Valley.
But the Miners fought back with three wickets late in the day to have the reigning premiers 4-86 in reply, opener Greg McLennan (68) scoring most of the runs.