Narrabri will be eyeing off their first district cricket double for over 15 years after winning their way through to the War Veterans and MA Connolly Cup finals on Sunday, albeit not without a couple of scares.
The First XI couldn’t get the job done in their War Veterans Cup clash against Armidale but did enough to pip Tamworth on run-rate and sneak into the final, while the Craig Gleeson led Second XI snuck home by seven runs in their Connolly Cup semi-final after a late fight-back from Glen Innes.
Playing to keep their hopes of back-to-back War Veterans Cup’s alive, skipper Lachie Cameron thought they were “very below par”.
“We definitely didn’t play like grand finalists,” he said.
“We kind of fielded like the lovable larrikin Pink Slugs of the past. Those sides that were a lot of fun to play against and had a lot of fun playing, but didn’t win a game for around two years.”
“Our batting wasn’t overly bad, we just lost wickets consistently.”
He thought they probably got caught by a bit of indecision and were a bit tentative on the balls that popped off the deck.
In contrast the Armidale batsmen went through on their shots a lot better.
“There were a couple of positives. DK (Daniel Kahl) batted really well and Jelany (Chilia) batted well at the end. Cody Kember was also pretty good without going on with it,” he said.
Between them, they took Narrabri from 6-41 to 8-120, Kahl (36) and Chilia (46no) putting on 51 for the eighth wicket.
Cameron conceded he was “a bit nervous” at 6-41 but knew they had a long batting line-up.
“I didn’t think we were fully out of the game,” he said.
“My main concern was that if we lost we got enough runs to make sure our net run-rate was above Tamworth.”
Chris Sargent (4-37) and Ryan O’Neill (3-41) topped the wickets for Narrabri while Chilia was economical finishing with 1-21 off his 10 including three maidens.
Gleeson said their semi-final ebbed and flowed with both sides enjoying the momentum at different stages.
Defending 6-192, which was underpinned by a brilliant century from Justin Knight, he was admittedly “pretty confident” when they had the home side 8-125.
But a typically quick-fire 25 off 15 from Nick Levy got them back in the game, and when number 11 Luke Hogdson (14 off 13), having just been dropped, sent the ball flying over the fence to get them within seven it looked like victory might be going to slip through Narrabri’s fingers.
But three balls into his sixth over Hamish Duncan (2-14) combined with his skipper to end the Glen fightback.
“Most of their batters came out and batted similarly- they hit the ball pretty clean and long,” Gleeson said.
“We never really had a chance where we could get back-to-back wickets.”
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Earlier Knight was their saviour with the bat with an unbeaten 105.
“He came in when we were in trouble and looked good from the start,” Gleeson said.
“They swung the ball and bowled at a pretty good pace but he blunted them really.”
“He was patient early, it was a slowish outfield and big boundaries, and just played really smart. It was a nice innings to watch.”
“A couple of the young fellas stuck with him. Nick Tomlinson (12), Hamish Duncan (6), Hadley Sevil (23no) they did an awesome job with him.”
Duncan was also good with the ball along with Kaleb Mowle and Dylan Smith.
The latter was unlucky, Gleeson, who himself took 3-22, said.
“He bowled good line and length,” he said.
They will face Tamworth in the February 24 final while the War Vets side will take on Gunnedah.
The last time Narrabri contested two district finals is believed to be 2002.