SOUTH Gambier became the first team to score a hat-trick of Big Bash Twenty20 Cup titles after it defeated West Gambier in a tight, low-scoring final at Marist Park on Sunday.
In a fluctuating decider, the Demons’ short-format experience came to the fore, as their batting depth and relentless bowling attack proved too much for the Roos.
After South lost five wickets in its first six overs, James Dunn and Michael Sims produced a match-winning partnership, while the likes of Daniel Loupos and Camron Jorgensen defended a reasonable target with ease.
The Demons were forced to earn the trophy the hard way after a tough semi-final contest against East Gambier played hours before the grand final.
The Bulldogs batted first and lost consistent wickets to set South a target of 113 for victory.
East believed it had a golden opportunity to seal its maiden T20 grand final berth after it dismissed both Demons’ openers early.
However, a special innings from David Somerfield guided South home to win by seven wickets with three balls remaining.
Somerfield played a lone hand with an unbeaten 72 off 58 deliveries, while none of his team mates could do better than 12.
The knock-out contest gave the Demons valuable knowledge of the worn pitch ahead of the final against a fresh West side full of confidence after an undefeated campaign.
After the Roos won the toss and sent the opposition into bat, a dream start saw them jumping for joy.
West tore through South’s dangerous top order with three wickets in the first three overs.
David Vine was the first dismissed after he mistimed a drive to Niall Easterbrook at mid on in the opening over, while a mix up running between the wickets saw the powerful Robert Drenthen depart three balls later.
With Somerfield at the crease much earlier than he would have expected, the Roos amplified the pressure with a succession of dot balls, which saw the star batsman almost bowled on the first ball he faced.
But West did not have to wait long for the key wicket, as Sam Willis managed to dismiss Somerfield for a duck two balls later.
The Roos were jubilant in the field, as Josh Thompson and Dylan Clough struggled to break the inner ring.
Thompson found life difficult in particular after he survived many close calls before his luck ran out on eight.
Four balls later, Clough was caught at point for five and suddenly the Demons were in dire straits at 5/21.
With no top-order batsmen remaining and 14 overs left to bat, South was in severe danger of an embarrassing total.
After surviving an early scare, Dunn built a partnership with Sims to rescue their side.
The pair began cautiously and started to turn the tide after Dunn hit South’s first boundary in 44 balls.
As Dunn’s confidence grew, the turning point of the match came in the ninth over, when he was dropped by Willis on 11.
Dunn made the Roos pay for the mistake, as he and Sims increased the run rate with calculated hitting.
They pushed the Demons to within reach of triple figures, until their 72-run partnership was broken by Josh Cornolo.
He knocked over Sims (27) and Dunn (38) in consecutive deliveries to put West back on top, as an improved fielding effort appeared to restrict South to a low score.
But Jorgensen swung and ran hard in the last over and powered the Demons up to a run-a-ball total.
Despite a consistent bowling effort led by three-wicket hauls by Willis and Cornolo, the Roos were forced to lament a number of missed chances in the field, which allowed South to post 9/121.
In response, the Roos began their run chase positively, as Easterbrook and Luke Rothall scored 24 runs from the first 20 balls.
But their promising start was soon destroyed by Drenthen, who found the edge of Rothall’s bat to open the floodgates.
Dewain Barrett fell for a three-ball duck after indecisiveness outside off stump proved his downfall to Jakob Opie.
Easterbrook became Opie’s second victim when he was caught behind for 14 to leave the game in the balance at 3/34.
Left-handed pair Justin Dejong and Connor Prior were proactive from ball one and looked to put the run chase back on track, but both fell during a crucial period of play.
Tall fast bowler Jorgensen and off-spinner Daniel Loupos were at the top of their games during a match-winning four-over spell.
The pair used their expertise to rip the heart out of West’s middle order by dismissing Prior, Dejong, Crute and Willis for the cost of just six runs.
Despite the powerful Cornolo hanging around, the Roos’ tail failed to create a late charge and was bowled out for 94.
Loupos was the chief instigator with 4/27, while Opie and Jorgensen claimed two wickets each.
They were backed up by strong support in the field, highlighted by James Sullivan’s diving catch and Thompson’s sharp glove work behind the stumps.
South captain Drenthen said his side’s depth with the bat was pivotal in the victory.
“Our depth was tested being under the pump at 5/21, but James Dunn, Camron Jorgenen and Michael Sims batted out of their skins to give us something to defend,” he said.
“Once we got triple figures, we thought we had enough runs on the board and as long as we executed in the field, we felt we were in with a chance.”
Drenthen said he was proud of the way his men defended a low total in the field.
“What we did with the ball was important,” he said.
“We did very well to defend the total and did not drop our bundle at all in the field.”
After becoming the first side to claim a T20 three-peat, Drenthen said the Demons will celebrate the occasion and already have a goal for next season.
“Some of us are luckily enough to call in sick tomorrow (Monday),” he said.
“We will enjoy this victory and try to be more successful in Warrnambool next year.”