Far North Fusion claims Bulls Masters T20 Country Challenge final

Far North Fusion has claimed the Bulls Masters T20 Country Challenge, running down the Mackay Whitsunday Nitros in an exciting final at the Gabba today. Chris Stanger’s valuable 59 from 46 balls drove the Fusion to 4-141 from 19.2 overs in reply to the Nitros’ total of 7-140 from 20 overs. The Fusion celebrated the win after losing last season’s final to North Queensland Monsoon at the Gabba. The Far North Queensland team looked set for another disappointment when opening batsman Gerard Fox was bowled with the first legitimate ball of the Fusion’s innings but Stanger’s knock proved the difference. He was dropped on 20 – one of several dropped catches by both teams in sweltering conditions at the Gabba – and then made the Nitros pay as the Fusion took 36 from three overs. That spurt changed the momentum of a game that had been in the balance. Jake Roach (33 not out from 25) ensured the Fusion avoided any late problems, joining Brenton Edwards (18 not out from 18) to take 12 runs from a decisive 18th over. “It was great for us to get that win after we lost the final last year,” Fusion captain Michael Salerno said. “Only 24 country cricketers get to play on this great ground and we didn’t treat it with the respect it deserved last year. We were determined to do better this year so we’re rapt with this result. “We’ve had some great games against Mackay Whitsunday this year and today was another close game. The game probably came down to those three overs when we got 30-odd – that proved the difference.” The Nitros began the match strongly as Peter Blaik (39 from 43 balls) and captain Brant Attard (10 from 9) took 19 from the first three overs before the first change of momentum. The Fusion’s Kyll Wright took two wickets in consecutive balls before the Nitros recovered with a steady innings aided by dropped catches. The Nitros gained momentum when fast bowler Adam Knezevic (2-22 from 4 overs) bowled Fox after sending down a wide with the first ball. Both teams won their way into the final through the Bulls Masters Country Challenge at Mackay’s Harrup Park earlier this summer. The Fusion were mentored by Bulls Masters legend Jimmy Maher while former Queensland fast bowler Mick Polzin mentored the Nitros. Maher and Polzin mentored the teams at that tournament, which drew together eight teams from Queensland’s regional areas. This is the sixth season of the Country Challenge, which is supported by the Mackay Regional Council and the Bulls Masters’ partners Suncorp Bank and Taxi Council Queensland. The Bulls Masters funded the final and all team travel to Brisbane. “The Bulls Masters Country Challenge provides a career pathway for regional cricketers and it also gives other developing players the chance to play at a higher level,” Maher, the Bulls Managing Director, said. “It also provides an incentive for more experienced regional cricketers to maintain involvement in the game. “This was an exciting final. It came down to the last over and the Fusion were able to win but it was a great effort by the Nitros to get so close.” Far North Fusion 4-141 from 19.2 overs (Stanger 59 from 46, Roach 33 not out from 25, Edwards 18 not out from 18, Knezevic 2-22 from 4, Dunn 1-23 from 4) defeated Mackay Whitsunday Nitros 7-140 from 20 overs (Blaik 39 from 43, Austin 30 from 22, Shepherd 26 from 26, Salerno 3-30 from 4 overs, Wright 2-15 from 3) by six wickets

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