Country Challenge Final Set
It's been five long years since a team from Southern Queensland made the Bulls Masters Country Challenge final but the Gold Coast Thunder has survived a tense semi-final against the Darling Downs Suns to book their spot in the decider at the Gabba.
The Thunder last made the final in 2014 when they beat the Central Queensland Seamers for their only title. It looked highly unlikely when they slumped to 5 for 65 after winning the toss and batting first but Wade Kilborn guided them to a defendable total of 6 for 129.
The Darling Downs Suns looked to be cruising to the final at one down for 62 runs but Thunder bowlers, Sam Winton (3/20) and Wade Kilborn (5/13) decimated the Suns middle order to bundle the Darling Downs out of the tournament at the semi-final stage for the second straight year.
The Gold Coast will play the North Queensland Monsoons in the decider after the Monsoons chased down the Far North Fusions hefty total of 5/165. North Queensland looked to be up against it when they lost early wickets to be 3 for 17 but Bradley Stout and captain Stephen Taylor got the run chase back on track. Stout was caught on the boundary and they were back under pressure at 5 for 69 but Stephen Taylor was a man on a mission, guiding the Monsoons home with 92 not out.
Last year's finalists, Mackay/Whitsundays Nitros and Central Queensland Seamers just missed out on the semi-final this year after a few tight losses and the Seamers pipped the Nitros for fifth place while the Wide Bay Flames finish the tournament with two wins and resigned the South East Queensland Stormers to the wooden spoon.
North Queensland opening batsman Dan Gartrell won the Dirk Tazelaar Medal for player of the tournament after top scoring with 179 runs at an average of 44 and a strike rate of 167.
The Grand Final will take place at the Gabba before the Brisbane Heat play the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash on January 19th.