UPDATE (SUNDAY): It was again a case of so near but yet so far for Wide Bay Flames in the play-off for seventh at the 2020 Bulls Masters T20 Country Challenge on Sunday.
The home team went down to Central Queensland Seamers by three wickets with three balls remaining.
Wide Bay posted 8-121 with Bundaberg trio Michael Loader, Matt Jackson and Gavin Scott joint top-scoring with 22 each.
Then without their best bowler Nathan Van Eekeren, who suffered a suspected broken ankle in their Saturday night match, another local representative Dean Krebs stepped up to the plate, opening the bowling and shattering the stumps with the first and last balls of the first over.
The Seamers recovered and got home midway through the last over, with Dean the pick of the bowlers with 2-11 from his three overs.
North Queensland Monsoon, who lost to Wide Bay last night, bounced back to win their last Pool game this morning before cruising to a six-wicket victory over Gold Coast Thunder in the preliminary finals in the afternoon.
They will meet Suns Darling Downs in the final which will be played at the Gabba later in the season after the Suns thrashed Far North Fusion by nine wickets with almost nine overs to spare on the back of an unbeaten 44 from opener Pieter Van der kooij, who was a late inclusion in their side, replacing an injured player.
UPDATE, 10.10pm SATURDAY: Wide Bay Flames are likely to miss the semi-finals at the 2020 Bulls Masters T20 Country Challenge in Bundaberg despite keeping their faint hopes alive with a tense one-run victory over North Queensland Monsoon tonight after suffering a heavy loss to Far North Fusion earlier in the afternoon.
The Flames were doused by Far North with the Fusion racking up 8-184 with Chris Stanger hitting out for 76 off just 37 balls, despite twin 3-33 hauls to Bundaberg duo captain and spinner Chris Duff and paceman Nathan Van Eekeren.
Wide Bay could manage only 88 in reply, with Matthew Jackson top scoring with 23 but Dan Parnell (3-4) and Paul Nasser (3-19) leading the charge for Far North.
In their night game, Wide Bay struggled to 9-112 against North Queensland Monsoons with Andy Batten top scoring for a second time in their three matches with 27.
But they dug deep to restrict Monsoon to 8-111 with Nathan Van Eekeren again outstanding with 3-10. Far North are the only unbeaten team in Wide Bay’s Pool A, while Gold Coast Thunder won both of their games in Pool B.
The fourth and final round will be played at 9.30am tomorrow, before the semi-finals at Salter Oval and play-offs for other positions at Kendalls Flat, all at 2pm.
UPDATE, 10pm FRIDAY: Wide Bay Flames played their hearts out but South East Queensland Stormers came back from the brink to snatch a four-wicket victory from the jaws of defeat in the first round of the Bulls Masters T20 Country Challenge at Salter Oval tonight.
After being invited to bat, the Flames amassed a healthy 4-144 from their 20 overs with Andy Batten top scoring with an unbeaten 44, young opener Nic Kelsey laying the platform with 35 and Michael Loader also managing the same score.
Lachlan Vellacott was the Stormers’ best with the ball with 2-29.
Wide Bay claimed early wickets and looked on track for a long time but Nick Verrenkamp and Lee Watts put SEQ in the contest with a blazing 59 from just 39 balls and 31 from 22 balls respectively, before Anju Perera carried them home on the penultimate ball with an unbeaten 23, finishing at 6-146.
Flames spin twins captain Chris Duff (2-30) and Tim Kidd (2-31) were their chief wicket takers, while Nathan Van Eekeren and Matthew Jackson picked up one wicket each, but all honours belong to the Stormers.
The remaining three first-round games will be played at 10am tomorrow Saturday, with Wide Bay’s next game against Far North Fusion at 2.30pm.
Country Challenge Cup teams welcomed
Published 4pm Friday: The best cricket teams from regional Queensland will compete for the Bulls Masters Country Challenge Cup and the chance to play on the Gabba at Salter Oval this weekend.
Eight zones from across the state will be in action this weekend to make the Country Challenge grand final, which will be held at the Gabba as a curtain-raiser to a Brisbane Heat game later in the season.
Gold Coast Thunder ended the Northern Queensland zones strangle hold on the event with a thrilling win last year over the Monsoons.
Bulls Masters managing director Jimmy Maher said he expects this year’s event to be the best yet.
“There is so much desire from the teams to do well at this event. In the past we’ve seen one or two weaker sides but now there are no easy games,” Maher said.
“This year we’ve got some absolute legends of the game to mentor the teams including current Brisbane Heat coach Darren Lehmann, who’s teaming up with the Darling Downs this year.
“It’s such a great opportunity for these players to pick some of Australia’s greatest cricketing brains.”
Country Challenge a boon for Bundaberg
Mayor Jack Dempsey said Bundaberg Regional Council was delighted to sponsor the Country Challenge and welcome teams back to the region for the second year.
“It’s fantastic to host this prestigious competition which provides a stepping stone for talented cricketers from across Queensland,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“Hosting the Country Challenge not only gives local players exposure to this high-level competition, but visiting players and spectators provide a boost to the local economy.
“I urge people to get out tonight and support Wide Bay Against the South East Queensland Stormers. If you’re not here tonight you’re missing out on some of the best cricketers in Country Queensland.”
Wide Bay will need all the support they can get with Wide Bay and Darling Downs the only sides that have never made the final at the Gabba.
Each team will be paired up with a former Queensland Cricket legend from the Bulls Masters to mentor their side:
Wide Bay – Carl Rackemann
South East Qld – Dirk Tazelaar
Darling Downs – Darren Lehmann
Gold Coast – Nathan Reardon
Central Queensland – Ken Healy
Mackay/Whitsundays – Mick Polzin
North Queensland – Gavin Fitness
Far North Qld – Jimmy Maher
The teams will be split into two pools of four and the top two sides in each pool after the group rounds will play off in a semi-final with the winners making the final at the Gabba.
Group 1 Group 2
Darling Downs Suns North QLD Monsoons
Central Queensland Seamers Mackay/Whitsundays Nitros
Wide Bay Flames SEQ Stormers
Far North Qld Fusion Gold Coast Thunders
The Country Challenge will take place over the long weekend with times below:
Keep an eye on Bundaberg Now for scores from the Wide Bay Flames.
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