The Darling Downs Suns have held their nerve to make the final of the Country Challenge Final for the first time in the competition’s history.
The Suns lost their first game of the tournament to the defending champions, The Gold Coast Thunder but regrouped to finish the tournament strong. They beat Mackay/Whitsundays and the Central Queensland Seamers to make the semi-final where they came up against the undefeated Far North Fusion side.
The Fusion side had steam-rolled through their side of the draw but struggled to put a competitive total on the board when it mattered, getting rolled for 91 batting first in the grand final qualifier. Suns captain, Cameron Brimblecombe led the way with three wickets with support coming from Regan Hoger, Kieran Gibbs and Kris Glass who all snagged two wickets each.
The Fusion needed early wickets to get the nerves going in the Darling Downs change-room but opening batsmen, Chris Gillam (40) and Pieter Van Der Kooij (44*) made light work of the run-chase. The Suns got the total with one wicket down in the 11th over.
Darling Downs will play last year’s beaten grand finalist, North Queensland Monsoons in the final. The Monsoons have won the tournament twice and were unlucky not to win last year after a run-out on the last ball of play (before the rain set in) left them behind on the Duckworth-Lewis.
North Queensland will get the chance to avenge their final ball loss after beating last year’s champions, the Gold Coast Thunder in the semi-final.
Gold Coast faltered batting first, falling to 3 for 7 early before Claye Beams (42*) led them to a modest but defendable total of 9/110. The Monsoons were 4/79 in the chase, with mercurial opener Daniel Gartrell breaking the back of the chase with 52 runs from 39 balls. With the game in the balance, North Queensland captain, Stephen Taylor came in to see the side through to their second straight Gabba decider.
Darling Downs Suns all-rounder, Kris Glass was recognised for his strong performances with both bat (108 runs at ave of 108) and ball (6 wickets at ave of 13), being awarded the Dirk Tazelaar medal for player of the tournament.