By Trevor Jackson
A DOMINANT performance on Sunday saw Penola claim its first South Aussie Big Bash T20 Cup crown, with a strong display of cricket across the day at Frew Park.
Penola defeated North Sportsman’s in emphatic style in the grand final, losing just three wickets in its chase.
North had set Penola a target of just 104 for victory and on the first ball of the 15th over Mark Smith cleared the fence to finish the game in style.
Much of the success came on the back of a three-wicket haul from man-of-the-match Jack Mullan, along with a half century with the bat to rightly claim the honour.
Mullan finished with figures of 3/14 off his four allotted overs, then continued with 51 runs off 37 deliveries with the willow in hand.
Captain Michael Waters was rightly pleased with the result as his side broke the drought, after never making a grand final previously.
“I am very happy with it,” he said.
“The boys played well today so it was a good all-round performance.
“The batters did well in both games and in the field too.
“It is hard defending runs so I was happy with everyone really.”
With a small total to chase in the grand final Waters said he was still not overly comfortable, knowing North was capable of defending a small total.
In fact, against East Gambier in the semi-final North put on just 119 runs and in the end won comfortably, bowling the Bulldogs out for just 95.
“They are pretty good at defending so I was confident, but not confident,” Waters said.
“They fight right to the end and make it very hard but once we got to 80 or 90 with wickets in hand I was pretty comfortable.”
As for the man of the match – “He is unbelievable isn’t he,” Waters said of Mullan.
“He is a very good cricketer and he loves playing in a grand final.”
Waters said he hoped the side could continue the same form in the Barber Shield competition to taste more success this season.
Penola’s form began earlier in the day against Mil Lel, where again they lost just three wickets on their way to a solid 175-run total.
Mark smith topped the scoresheets with the bat, with a fast 57 not out off 37 deliveries, while Waters fell just short of the milestone, with an unbeaten 41 off 28.
Mil Lel fought valiantly in the run chase, despite early wickets, with Jack Miller unbeaten on 57.
However, Penola was simply too strong with the ball in hand and held Mil Lel to just 142 runs from its allotted 20 overs.
North went on to beat East but not in convincing style.
A half-century to Jordan Hollitt was the highlight for the Tigers, with his 59 the only resistance to the Bulldog bowlers.
But two wickets each to Declan Kenny, Tim Young and Elliott Fisher and some tight bowling from the remainder of the attack saw the Tigers home to book a grand final berth.
It set the scene for an enthralling grand final battle, even when North was bowled out by Penola for just 103.
Only four Tigers reached double figures with the bat.
Nick McInerney could only offer a solitary run, clean bowled by Waters early with the total at just three.
Fisher and Brad Stafford threatened to open the game up but neither looked overly comfortable at the crease.
With the score at 43 Fisher succumbed to the relentless attack, stumped off the bowling of Mullan for 14.
Stafford went just one run later in the same manner for 23 and suddenly North looked shaky.
Hollitt was unable to repeat his earlier form and with the team half-century reached, he became Mullan’s third victim, caught-and-bowled for just one run.
Mitch Lewis and Kayne Badman offered some resistance, with 26 and 19 runs respectively but that was about all the Tigers could muster.
However, it could have been far worse, with several catches dropped by Penola to give North a chance to post a decent total, which did not happen.
From the outset Penola was up to the run chase, with Jack Schulz and Mullan putting on 34 for the opening stand, before the former was sent on his way, lbw to McInerney for 12.
Mullan and Smith then began to dismantle the bowling attack, pushing singles and twos, while finding the boundary and clearing the fence from time to time.
Mullan went for 51, caught off Jared Strawbridge but much of the damage had already been done.
Waters came and went cheaply but by then Smith had the game in hand and finished off in style to the cheers of a raucous crowd which had gathered to cheer the Penola side on.