North Queensland Come Close to Epic Run-Chase After 50’s to Lowry and Ford
The Far North Fusion and North Queensland Monsoons have made a habit out of taking games down to the wire in the Bulls Masters Country Challenge over the years. Last season the Monsoons chased down the Fusion’s total of 7/162 on the last ball of the semi-final after it looked all but certain the Far North boys had the game in their grasp. In 2019 it was a similar story with Monsoons captain, Stephen Taylor sneaking his side over the line with 92 not out after the Fusion had the game in their control defending 5/165 as the Monsoons slumped to 5/69.
This year there would be no miraculous escape as the Far North Fusion claimed their second Bulls Masters Country Challenge title in dramatic fashion at the Gabba.
North Queensland won the toss and sent the Fusion in to bat on a flat bouncy wicket. It was a decision that almost paid dividends but the Monsoons fielding was sloppy. Most notably, the key-wicket of Jake Roach was dropped twice in a Sam Collingwood over. It would prove costly as Roach cashed in to score 49 runs off just 26 balls to set up the Fusion innings.
Roach was backed up with good contributions from fellow opener, Matty Wilkins (39 off 37), Andrew Phelps (37 off 32) and captain Justin Reid (19 from 12) to head into the sheds at the change of innings full of confidence with a total of 6/177.
The umpires penalised the Monsoons six runs for a slow over rate with the innings closing out eight minutes over-time.
Jake Roach said at half-time that the key to a win would be taking the wickets of the Monsoons trio of Queensland Country Brahmans representatives, Sam Lowry, Craig McElligott and Lachlan Ford.
Lowry survived an early run-out chance to set-up the run-chase with an impressive 50 runs from just 41 balls but his wicket came just as the Monsoons started to make their move, caught at mid-off by opposition skipper Justin Reid at the end of a Brenton Edwards over that had already gone for 15 runs.
Earlier, the key-wicket of Craig McElligott was achieved when Andrew Phelps dived full-length to take a spectacular grab at backward point off the bowling of Jake Roach.
The Monsoons seemed to be just behind in the game but Lachlan Ford continued to smash the bowling all around the Gabba on his way to a quick-fire 55 from 27 balls but when he was stumped off the bowling of Tom Boorman, the Monsoons still needed 33 runs from 19 balls.
Late hitting from Justin Dixon got the Monsoons close but he was caught on the final ball of the game and the Far North Fusion held their nerve to win another epic encounter between the two rivals.
The Player of the Final went to Jake Roach for his batting, bowling and fielding which proved to be the difference between the two sides.
The win is the Far North Fusion’s second after they beat the Monsoons for the title in 2016.
The Monsoons are still the only team to have won three Bulls Masters Country Challenge titles.