South Queensland Zones Dominate In Cairns
The Bulls Masters Youth Cup entered its 7th season with the Sunshine Coast Scorchers aiming to defend their title as the tournament headed north to Cairns for the first time.
And the champs got the title defence off to the best possible start with a dominant win over the hosts. Far North Fusion couldn’t get going, setting a modest total of 3/94 in their 20 overs which the Scorchers chased down with the loss of just two wickets in the 16th over.
South East Queensland Stormers laid down their claim to be the contender with a dominant win over the North Queensland Monsoons, scoring 2/164 off their 20 overs and looking very polished.
Day two highlighted just how close the competition was with all games going down to the wire. The Monsoons pushed perennial contenders, Darling Downs all the way with the Suns all-rounder, Connor Walker seeing his side home with a mature knock of 67*.
Mackay/Whitsundays Nitros couldn’t get the final wicket as Far North chased their total of 144 down for the loss of nine wickets.
The Wide Bay Flames had never won the Youth Cup or the Country Challenge but they laid down the challenge with an impressive run-chase. Set 215 to win by the Stormers, they hung on for a morale boosting win, losing eight wickets, with River Felstead scoring 67.
The Flames franked their good form when they held off the Darling Downs Suns in the evening T20 and then belted Mackay/Whitsundays Nitros the next day to rocket to the top of the standings heading into the final round of fixtures before the finalists would be decided.
With the Scorchers failing to chase down the Nitros massive score in the evening T20 of 6/201, it left the Flames as the only undefeated team but unfortunately for the Wide Bay side, they stuttered at the final hurdle and collapsed when chasing the Far North Fusion’s very gettable total of 159 in their last 50 over game.
Darling Downs and Sunshine Coast went into their final 50 over game with the winner set to make the final. Sunshine Coast batted first and set the Suns a modest total of 9/209 to win. The Suns lost regular wickets, including two devastating run-outs and Ashton Schultz took 4/23 to bundle the three-time youth Cup champs out of the tournament.
The final round of T20’s would determine who played the Sunshine Coast Scorchers in the final with both the SEQ Stormers and the Wide Bay Flames tied on 10 points and very close on net-run-rate. SEQ took on the Suns and Wide Bay took on the winless North Queensland Monsoons who were motivated to end the tournament on a high.
In the end SEQ Stormers had a 32 run win over the Suns while Wide Bay only just hung on to beat the Monsoons by six runs, meaning the Stormers made the final by just 0.1 difference on net-run-rate.
So it was heartbreak for the Flames and the final was set between the SEQ Stormers and the Sunshine Coast Scorchers.
The Stormers batted first and got away to a great start with openers Chase Rodgers and Jed Turner putting on 50 runs for the opening stand off just six overs before Scorchers leg-spinner Finn Mayo snuck the wrong-un through Jed Turner’s defence to start a mini-collapse.
Mayo got Jack Hillier in the same over and the Stormers momentum was slowed when they were 4/68 after Noah Plater was run-out. The Stormers steadied the ship and some late hitting got them up to 7/138 from their 20 overs which looked to be a very competitive total.
Sunshine Coast started the run chase positively with captain Will Noffke put up the order with a licence to swing hard. He played second fiddle to Lachlan Hardiker who got a quick fire 27 runs from just 17 balls to give the Scorchers a sniff.
With Damon Bass and Zac Robinson steadying through the middle overs the game was set-up for a tense finale. The Scorchers needed 34 runs from the last five overs to go back to back, but it was looking shaky when Damon Bass got out leaving the Sunshine Coast needing 20 runs from the last two overs.
The Scorchers needed to be brave needing six runs from the final two balls but a wide and a run-out, followed by a missed reverse-sweep leading to a couple of byes meant that scores were tied after 20 overs.
For the first time in Youth Cup history we would need a super-over to split the sides. Sunshine Coast sent out Will Noffke and Aiden Cushan and it was Chase Rodgers tasked with keeping the runs down to a minimum for the Stormers. A couple of lusty blows from Noffke led to 14 runs being scored and it was over to Jed Turner and Luke Harper to chase the runs and Cushan to hold his nerve and bowl out for the Scorchers.
When Jed Turner was caught from the fourth ball of the over and the Stormers still needed ten runs from two balls, it looked like the Scorchers had the game in the bag, but this is T20 cricket and there was still a twist in this one.
Cushan bowled a wide down leg side and the Stormers set off for a suicidal run, but a missed run out led to an over-throw and all of a sudden the equation was seven needed from two. Then an inside edge flew past the stumps down to the boundary to set up a final ball thriller, with the Stormers needing three to win and two to tie. The final ball was saved on the boundary but the Scorchers got two runs to tie the game again and a second super-over was needed.
The Stormers batted first and scored eight runs and the Scorchers were able to get the runs in four balls to claim their second Bulls Masters Youth Cup title!