Far North Fusion opener Jake Roach received the coveted Tazelaar Medal as the Player of the 2021 Bulls Masters T20 Country Challenge hosted by Bundaberg Cricket Association (BCA) on the weekend after blasting an unbeaten 106 against Mackay-Whitsunday Nitros in their Pool clash on Saturday night and 96 in their semi-final showdown with North Queensland Monsoon on Sunday afternoon.
But his superb semi-final knock from 67 balls, with six fours and five sixes, was not enough for Far North who could manage only 7-162, and they were defused by North Queensland, who dug deep to achieve their target on the last ball, finishing at 7-163.
They will meet Gold Coast in the final in a curtain-raiser to a Brisbane Heat game in January, after the Thunder rumbled against Suns Darling Downs in the other semi, racking up a hefty 5-195 before sending the Downs packing for just 100.
Wide Bay Flames, which included 10 Bundaberg players, had a disappointing tournament, losing their three Pool A games to Far North, Darling Downs and Mackay-Whitsunday Nitros respectively, but they finished on a high with a 47-run victory over South East Queensland Stormers in the play-off between the two fourth placed Pool teams.
The Suns were the only team to win their three Pool games, with North Queensland, Gold Coast and Central Queensland each winning two of their three Pool B games, with Monsoon and Thunder progressing to the semis with percentages of 2.16 and 1.93 respectively, to the Seamers’ 0.38.
Monsoon had started with a crushing nine-wicket loss to Seamers on Saturday morning, but they bounced back in the afternoon to defeat Thunder by three wickets with six overs to spare after bundling the Coast out for 122.
They then thrashed Stormers by nine wickets on Sunday morning, restricting them to a mere 6-107, then losing just one wicket in racing past their target in 7.3 overs.
Thunder hit the ground running against Stormers first-up, amassing 3-176, before bundling out their closest geographical rivals for a paltry 69.
After their stumble against the North Queenslanders later in the day, they rebounded strongly against Central on Sunday morning, with the Seamers managing a modest 9-106, which proved easy pickings for Gold Coast, who took just 12 overs to clinch victory, losing only two wickets in the process.
In the semis, Far North ultimately paid the price for failing to capitalize on the great platform laid by Jake Roach and fellow opener Justin Reid, with no other batsman reaching double-figures, as paceman Mitchell Burton bowled Jake four runs short of a deserved second century on successive days in his 3-18, which kept their target much smaller than what it could have been.
In their chase, every Monsoon batsman contributed, but captain and No. 3 Craig McElligott led from the front with a brisk 47, but at 5-113, the result was in the balance until Herbie Heuir (26 from 14 balls) and Mitchell Burton (29 from 14) got them back on track before both departing on 152 and 160 respectively.
It came down to the last ball, with Justin Dixon hitting the winning runs.
Gold Coast, on the other hand, were always in control against Darling Downs in their semi, hitting out for a tournament-high 195 runs, with every batsman contributing, led by No. 5 Joel Harrison with 56 from 35 balls and No. 4 Phil Tunnicliffe with 39.
With the bat, Darling Downs attacked from the start, but Thunder spearhead Dhanushka Mitipolarachchi removed both their dangermen openers Pieter Van der kooij and Chris Gillam for just 18 and 14 respectively, and while the next three batsmen each also reached double-figures, none of them were able to go on with the job.
Bowlers three to five Phil Tunnicliffe (2-16), Dayne Siede (2-13) and Jonathon Baldock (2-13) also joined the party, while their other opener Reece McDonald and Daley Miller claimed one wicket each, as the Suns went down in 18.4 overs.
It is the second year in a row North Queensland have reached the final after defeating the previously unbeaten Gold Coast in the 2020 semis, but for Fusion it was double-disappointment after also winning their three Round games before also being beaten by Suns at the same stage 12 months ago.
Jake Roach easily topped the batting statistics at the carnival with 217 at an average of 72.33 – 62 runs more than second placed David Heymer, of CQ Seamers, while Gold Coast had the top four in the bowling, Phil Tunnicliffe (7 wickets @ 9.57), Daley Miller (5 @ 9.00), Jonathon Baldock (5 @ 9), and Sam Yabsley (5 @ 11.20).
Last season’s final is yet to be played due to Covid-19 restrictions when it was scheduled in January this year, but Bulls Masters Managing Director Jimmy Maher announced that it has been rescheduled for the Gabba next month after the end of a Sheffield Shield game.
Wide Bay went into the weekend with high hopes, but coach Simon Gills said five late forced changes to his side as a result of injuries and work commitments, were too much to overcome.
They finished with just 6-102 against Far North in the tournament opener on Friday night, before Fusion scraped home with seven wickets down with two balls to spare after Queensland Country representative Arden Lankowski (3-13) and opener Callum Stitt (2-26) had reduced them to 5-25.
Saturday was a bad day for the Flames as they were extinguished by Suns by 10 wickets with seven overs to spare in the morning, and by Nitros by eight wickets inside 12 overs in the afternoon.
But they showed what they are capable of, compiling 4-152 against Stormers, with Gympie No. 3 Trent Riddell (53) and Bundaberg’s No. 4 Ryan Norton (43) leading the charge, then keeping SEQ to 9-105 with 18-year-old Matt Jackson (3-23) and Nathan Van Eekeren (2-10) the main destroyers.
Jimmy Maher was again delighted with the success of the event, and he thanked Bundaberg Regional Council for their sponsorship of the Challenge for the third year in a row, and hosts BCA for another superb job, especially Shaun Rose.
Bulls Masters greats Nathan Reardon (Flames), Brendan Creevey (Stormers), Darren Lehmann (Suns), Chris Swan (Thunder), Ken Healy (Seamers), Dirk Tazelaar (Nitros), Gavin Fitness (Monsoons), and Jimmy Maher (Fusion) were also very well received as mentors of the teams.
Friday: Far North Fusion 7/103 (Paul Nasser, Arden Lankowski 3/13, Callum Stitt 2-26) d Wide Bay Flames 6/102 (Chris Napper 25no, Paul Nasser 2/15).
CQ Seamers 1/111 (Todd Harmsworth 48no, David Heymer 25) d NQ Monsoon 107 (Craig McElligott 63no, Logan Whitfield 3/15, Callum McMahon 3/38, Joe McGahan 2/13).
Gold Coast 3/176(cc) (Claye Beams 51no, Phil Tunnicliffe 45, Dayne Siede 35, Canning Mason 34, Adam Jordan 2/23) d SEQ Stormers 10/69 (Jonathon Baldock 3/10, Daley Miller 2/15).
Suns Darling Downs 0/95 (Pieter Van der kooij 50no, Chris Gillam 40no) d Wide Bay Flames 5/89(cc) (Callum Stitt 42, Luke Neale 2/18).
CQ Seamers 2/116 (Todd Harmsworth 52, David Heymer 47) d SEQ Stormers 4/113(cc) (Lachlan Vellacott 58, Will Barwick 3/20).
Suns Darling Downs 4/137 (Chris Gillam 54, Arshvir Singh 51, Thomas Boorman 2/15) d Far North Fusion 3/136(cc) (Daniel Parnell 51no, Chris Adams 42, Justin Reid 26).
Mackay-Whitsunday Nitros 2/95(cc) (Darryn Dyer 58no, Chris Duff 2/24) d Wide Bay Flames 92 (Mitchell Wadsworth 3/23, Lane Kohler 2/14, Chris McEldowney 2/20).
NQ Monsoon 7/123 (Daniel Gartrell 48, Chris Stanger 30, Phil Tunnicliffe 3/30, Daley Miller 2/27) d Gold Coast 10/122(cc) (Zane Beattie 32, Justin Dixon 4/24, Travis Busch 3/28, Chris Stanger 2/11).
Far North Fusion 6/174(cc) (Jake Roach 106no, Jason Butterworth 3/18) d Mackay-Whitsunday Nitros 8/131(cc) (Jakob Frerichs 51, Chris McEldowney 25, William Robertson 3/16, Ben McCartney 2/16).
Gold Coast 2/109(cc) (Canning Mason 40no, Dayne Siede 29) d CQ Seamers 9/106(cc) (David Heymer 36, Sam Yabsley 3/30).
Suns Darling Downs 5/148 (Pieter Van der kooij 68, Arshvir Singh 30) d Mackay-Whitsunday Nitros 9/147(cc) (Chis McEldowney 35, Tom Vandenberg 28, Regan Hoger 2/44).
NQ Monsoon 1/111 (Sam Lowry 45no, Daniel Gartrell 44) d SEQ Stormers 6/107(cc) (Aaron Nugter 51, Justin Dixon 2/23).
Gold Coast Thunder 5/195(cc) (Joel Harrison 56, Phil Tunnicliffe 39, Dayne Siede 35, Claye Beams 26) d Suns Darling Downs 100 (Dayne Siede 2/13, Jonathon Baldock 2/13, Dhanushka Mitipolarachchi 2/16, Phil Tunnicliffe 2/16).
NQ Monsoon 7/163 (Craig McElligott 47, Mitchell Burton 29, Herbie Heuir 26, Ben McCartney 2/26, Jake Roach 2/30) d Far North Fusion 7/162(cc) (Jake Roach 96, Justin Reid 37, Mitchell Burton 3/18, Sam Lowry 2/16).
CQ Seamers 3/130 (David Heymer 47, Todd Harmsworth 42, Chris McEldowney 2/27) d Mackay-Whitsunday Nitros 7/126(cc) (Darryn Dyer 36, Jason Butterworth 28, Joel Bock 25no, Luke Johnstone 3/24, Josh Hamilton 2/21).
Wide Bay Flames 4/152(cc) (Trent Riddell 53, Ryan Norton 43, Arden Lankowski 39, Geoff Klease 2/23) d SEQ Stormers 9/105(cc) (Jasper Singh Padda 25, Matthew Jackson 3/23, Nathan Van Eekeren 2/10).