The FSC Thunder overcame a horror start to record a solid win in the inaugural Bendigo Bank Big Bash last Friday.
Chasing 162 for victory, the Thunder was in all sorts of trouble at 4/28 in the Twenty20 contest against the FSC Sixers.
However, the game was turned on its head thanks to the work of Tathra cricketers Ben O’Reilly and Rob Stevenson.
While O’Reilly grabbed attention by belting 78 off 29 balls, Stevenson calmly compiled an unbeaten 31 to guide his side to victory.
Earlier in the day, Sixers captain Adam Blacka won the toss and elected to bat first.
Blacka and Wayne Fitzgerald strode to the crease, looking to hit boundaries from the outset.
The pair took the total up to 33 before Fitzgerald was bowled by left-arm seamer Ross Oldham for 10.
Bega/Angledale’s Sam Hodder came in at number three and was lucky to survive an early run-out chance.
Soon after, Hodder was again living dangerously when he was nearly run out, but the pair moved the score on to 1/46 after five overs.
Blacka continued to look confident at the other end, smashing a couple of deliveries to the boundary.
However, when Hodder was stumped off Shane Garrett’s bowling, the dismissal triggered a mini collapse.
Blacka fell to young leg spinner Mac Wright for 35 off 21 balls, and Michael Edmunds was bowled by Garrett, as the Sixers slipped to 4/74 after 9.1 overs.
The completion of the 10th over saw super sub Greg Matthews brought onto the field.
The Big Bash rules meant Matthews, 53, could bowl four overs for each side.
Matthews played 33 Test matches and 59 One-Day Internationals for Australia during the ‘80s and ‘90s.
However, the off-break spinner was welcomed into the attack with a beautifully timed six by Dedman.
The Thunder continued to make in-roads into the batting line-up, with Alan Mitchell dismissed soon after by Oldham.
Dedman continued to power on, combining his ability to hit the boundaries with clever running.
He found a willing partner in Dylan Jordan and the pair moved the score onto 5/122 after 15 overs.
Jordan (16) was then dismissed by the wily Matthews as the Sixers slipped to 6/131.
Robbie Ringland was next man in and he struggled to find rhythm during his brief stay at the crease.
Ringland was soon bowled by Wright, attempting to play an audacious scoop shot.
While his team-mates struggled, Dedman continued to plunder boundaries, bringing up his half-century in the 18th over.
At the completion of 20 overs, Dedman remained unbeaten on 57 from just 36 balls.
Dedman’s knock included one four and six sixes, as the Sixers finished their innings at 8/161.
While the Sixers would have been pleased with their effort, the side was restricted by some excellent bowling.
Garrett led the way with 3/22 from four overs, while Wright (2/21), Oldham (2/25) and Luke Ryan (0/25) were reasonably economical.
Matthews picked up one wicket, but conceded 50 runs from his four overs.
During the half-time interval, the Big Bash organisers ran a raffle in support of local cricket clubs.
The crowd was entertained by the girls from Eden Area Gymnastics, before the second innings began.
Blacka made the surprising decision to open with leg spinner Lukas Santinon and it nearly paid off early, but Mitchell missed a tough catching opportunity.
Santinon was economical during his spell, while Blacka’s quick bowling saw the Thunder score just 17 runs after four overs.
By the sixth over, the side had slipped to 4/28.
Mudaliar was the first man to go, stumped by Dedman off Santinon, before Garrett was bowled by Hodder for four.
Hazelgrove-Danvers was then run out and Jeremy Fernando fell to Ben Hales’ bowling as the Thunder appeared in all sorts of trouble.
By the time the next wicket fell, the scoreboard read 125.
O’Reilly was positive from the outset, setting the crowd with successive towering sixes.
He continued to play brutal shots down the ground and through cow corner as the Thunder moved to 4/67 after 10 overs, still needing 95 for victory.
O’Reilly breezed past his half-century, but the turning point occurred when Ringland was introduced into the attack.
O’Reilly took Ringland for 28 runs off one over, scoring 6, 6, 4, 0, 6, 6 – one of the sixes reached the nearby tennis courts.
The over meant the Thunder needed just 40 runs from the remaining 42 deliveries.
In his final over, Matthews was able to deceive O’Reilly with lovely loop, disturbing the stumps.
O’Reilly fell for an explosive 78 off 29 balls and Matthews celebrated the wicket by high-fiving all team-mates.
The dismissal meant the Thunder was now 5/125.
Matthews and Blacka bowled successive good overs, meaning the batting side need 31 off 30 deliveries.
Matthews finished with figures of 1/40, and match figures of 2/90 from eight overs.
Edmunds was then able to draw an edge from Rod Rowland’s bat as the Thunder needed 29 from the remaining four overs.
Any hope of a Sixers win was then snuffed out when Luke Ryan smashed two boundaries and a four.
Stevenson then guided the Thunder towards victory before Ryan sealed the win in the 19th over by belting a boundary.
Stevenson remained unbeaten on 26 from 31 balls while Ryan smashed a 13-ball 23.
Edmunds was the pick of the bowlers with 1/7 from two overs, while Santinon, Hodder, Hales and Matthews collected one apiece.
Event organiser Dave Allen said the inaugural Big Bash was a huge success.
“A huge thank you to all our volunteers,” Allen said.
“Thanks to our commentator Chris O’Brien, fellow organiser Justin Roscoe, DJ Jason Heffernan, the girls from Eden Area Gymnastics for the half-time entertainment, ground curator John Dedman and his team, our kind sponsors, especially major sponsor the Bendigo Bank.
“Speaking to Bendigo Bank director Russell Fitzpatrick after the match, he said they were very happy with the event would have no hesitation in being involved again.”