Centennials Bulls claimed their first Royal Hotel Cup title since 1995-96 in a final-over thriller at Wade Park on Friday night, former Lithgow guns Dallas Tilley and Ryan Gurney inspiring the win in what will go down as one of the Twenty20 competition’s great decider battles.
Tilley produced a crucial, game-changing performance with the bat and then Gurney did the same with the ball, both efforts swinging momentum back to their side after the Bathurst City Redbacks had wrestled their way into the box seat.
Tilley entered the fray at 4-82 after his side had made a swashbuckling start then been pegged back significantly in the middle overs, and promptly smashed an unbeaten 38 from 31 balls to catapult the Bulls to 7-159.
Bathurst City started well and a commanding, 39-ball 62 from Trent Hemsworth pushed Redbacks into a winning position at 2-109, before Gurney struck.
Hemsworth had initially taken a real liking to his skiddy off-spinners, until Gurney snared a stunning caught and bowled to dismiss him, clean bowled Greg Adams (0) next ball and then picked up Mark Tobin (4) an over later.
In the blink of an eye Redbacks had lost 3-10 and slumped to 5-119, they never recovered from the toll the collapse took as Gurney finished with figures of 4-26 – he also took Sam McPherson’s (9) wicket – in a man-of-the-match showing.
In the end Bathurst City needed 13 from Chris Redding’s final over, the former Lithgow quick kept Redbacks to seven to secure his side’s six-run win and the title with it.
“It’s bloody awesome,” Centennials skipper Brown said.
“We always knew it was going to be close, as soon as we finished batting we said it would go the journey, the whole 20 overs. It was eight an over from the get-go so even when Trent started to get going it was always going to be tough for them.
“We always thought we had the bowlers to get the job done, and how good is Ryan, the MVP.
“He and Dallas were great. You know, Dallas kept saying he wanted to bat at nine but he’s definitely a top six bat and he’s proved that again. He was unreal for us and he’d done that a couple of times, got us out of trouble a few times in this competition.”
Bathurst City stand-in skipper Joey Coughlan, taking Matt Willis’ place, admitted to being severely disappointed, but gave the Bulls plenty of credit.
As soon as we finished batting we said it would go the journey ... but we always thought we had the bowlers to get the job done.Centennials skipper Andrew Brown
“It’s disappointing, I thought 160 was about a par score but it just proved a little bit too much for us [on Friday],” Coughlan said.
“Well done to the Centennials boys, but I think we can still be proud of the efforts. I was just a caretaker, Matty (Willis) got us here and did a great job.
“Hopefully we can come back and have another crack next season and you never know, maybe see Centennials again in the final.”
Brown won the toss and batted first at Wade Park, a decision which looked an excellent one as marquee man Mick Curtale and former Western Zone gun Josh Toole opened their shoulders early.
They added a quick-fire 34 before Curtale was dismissed for 17 from 15 balls.
Gurney (10 from 10) joined Toole and they added another 30 before the former was dismissed, with Aaron Seymour (0) following him with the score still at 64.
Nick Brid (14 from 9) fell another 18 runs later and when Toole’s (38 from 28) wicket left the Bulls at 5-84, Redbacks looked to have taken complete control of the game.
The former Lithgow gun added 16 with Brown (9 from 11) and then a pivotal 57 for the seventh wicket with Troy Kenny (24 from 16), pushing Centennials above 150.
Macpherson (3-23) and Hemsworth (2-31) were the best of the Redbacks bowlers, while Clint Moxon also picked up multiple scalps, taking 2-32 from his four overs.
For much of the chase Redbacks were on par with the Bulls and, through the middle stages, well in front of them.
Coughlan (9 from 16) and Hemsworth put on a 33-run opening stand and the latter added 32 more with Macpherson (18 from 16).
Hemsworth and Ben Orme (20 from 20) pushed the score to 109, before Gurney sparked the middle-order collapse.
When it was over, the Redbacks were left at 5-119 and then 6-124 after Jem Nash (2-23) picked up the crucial scalp of Orme.
Moxon (14 not out from 10) and Mark Day (11 from 9) gave Bathurst City a chance, but the mountain proved too big to climb in the end, as Redding (1-29) executed a sublime at-the-death over to seal the win.