Gunnedah suffered War Veterans Cup heartbreak after falling to Inverell in the final round and missing out on the final.
It’s a development that Gunnedah skipper Mitchell Swain described as “extremely disappointing”.
Gunnedah travelled to Inverell on Sunday on top of the standings and knowing that a win would secure them a home final.
But it all went pear-shaped as Gunnedah’s top order capitulated after the visitors won the toss and batted.
When Gunnedah was routed for 114 in the 30th over, Inverell passed the total in the 44th over for the loss of eight wickets.
Narrabri, who beat Armidale at home on Sunday, will host Inverell in the final.
Swain was at a loss to explain why Gunndah’s top order failed so miserably.
Gunnedah were 6-45 after only one of their top-six batsmen reached double figures, with opener Andy Mack’s 21 the side’s second highest score after No.8 Ryan Cooper’s 28. No.3 Kyle Gallen and No.6 Farran Lamb made ducks, while opener Sam Doubleday (4), No.4 James Mack made (1) and No.5 Swain (4) also failed.
“It was very disappointing,” Swain said. “I don’t know how to explain it, really.
“It was extremely disappointing with the bat. The top six were abysmal – terrible. It was shocking.”
Swain saluted Gunnedah’s tail for establishing a “reasonable” total provided the side’s bowlers did their job.
They did, he said, adding that Gunnedah was also spirited in the field.
But he just couldn’t stay away from commenting on the top order’s woes, saying they were dismissed “playing shots well below our standards”.
He rebuffed the suggestion that pressure got to the players.
“There was no pressure going into the game,” he said. “I certainly didn’t apply pressure to anyone. It was just a few loose shots.
“Our top six are much better cricketers than what we displayed today.”
Gander, Swain and Hayden Baker snared two wickets each for Gunnedah.
Swain wished Narrabri and Inverell good luck in the final.
“At the start of the season you probably wouldn’t have picked those two sides in the final,” he said. “It’s fantastic to see them in the final and it’s great for country cricket.”
Matthew Sparke (23) top-scored for Inverell, followed by Rodney Blair (22) and Jaidon Tasker (20).
At Narrabri, Jake Brayshaw (3-36), Chris Sargent (3-14), Ryan O’Neill (2-24), Nathan Trindall (2-16) combined to dismiss Armidale for 115.
“We just never really let them get going,” Narrabri skipper Lachlan Cameron said.
Batting at three, Todd Francis top-scored for the visitors with 26 as the top five – unlike Gunnedah – provided the bulk of the runs.
Nick Smart (35) and Coby Cornish (19) got Narrabri’s chase off to a blistering start, smacking 52 for the first wicket off just nine overs. Cameron (32 not out) and Tom Craig (24) then finished off the job. Craig hit the winning runs off the first ball of the 24th over.