Central North start Kookaburra Cup in thrilling fashion

Central North evoked memories of the famous tied test with two run-outs off the final two balls to pull off a thrilling tie with Southern/ACT in their Kookaburra Cup opener at Griffith on Monday.

After posting 7-153 from their 40 overs, they were holding on grimly with Southern/ACT needing just six runs off the final two overs.

But some great bowling from skipper Joey Mead and Alex McNeill restricted them.

Mead bowled the second last and conceded only four runs, leaving Southern two to get off the final over.

McNeill was thrown the ball for that and bowled three dot balls to start the over.

Southern scored a single off the fourth to level the scores. But they were unable to muster the one more run they required with Central North keeper Callum Henry affecting successive run outs.

It was a remarkable finish and the first tied game coach Kel Walls could recall being involved in in his long career.

He had been pretty happy with 153.

“I think we did a good job under the conditions,” he said.

“The grass was reasonably think and long. There weren’t many fours hit.”

It was also very hot and humid, and took it’s toll on the players with Armidale’s Benji Marshall forced to retire sick because of heat-stroke.

He and Beau Parnell (59) had the innings ticking along nicely after they’d lost Zac Clarke fairly early on.

Marshall did return later in the innings, but in the push for late runs could only add a couple to his total and fell nine runs short of a half-century.

Nick Page also batted well for 18, Walls said. He took over from Marshall when he went off, and with Parnell steered them to 2-129.

Southern/ACT then got away to a good start.

“After 10 or 12 they were cruising at about four runs an over,” Walls said.

“Our two spinners – Nick Page and Tom Druery – bowled quite well and put the brakes on.

“At the second drinks break they were only about two runs different to what we were.” 

It wasn’t easy bowling, particularly in the last 10 overs Walls said, with a storm that came through making the ball wet and greasy.

Parnell backed up his efforts with the willow with 2-26, with Mead, McNeill and Cotter Litchfield all chipping in with a wicket. 

McNeill was great in his last spell, his last four overs going for only 12 runs.

Walls felt they would have taken a lot more positives away than Southern, but said there was plenty of room for improvement.

“One of the areas we certainly need to improve on is we gave them probably another four overs in extras,” he said.

“That hurt us.”

“Our fielding was good. I think our throwing can improve.”

They have Newcastle next up.