Fifteen wickets, 461 runs, three half centuries, and one frantic finish – what a game of cricket.

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The Narrabri District Cricket Association’s first XI travelled to Inverell on Sunday to contest the second round of the 2019-20 War Veterans Cup campaign.

Narrabri batted first after skipper Lachlan Cameron won the toss and the side batted out its 50 overs, finishing with a defendable 9-233.

The total was the Narrabri first team’s biggest since October 2016 and the visitors needed almost every single one of those runs to secure the win following a nail-biting finish.

Inverell required 11 runs for victory from the final over and NDCA skipper Lachlan Cameron turned to his Civeo teammate Nick Smart, who had not bowled in the first 49 overs of the innings, to get the job done.

Smart conceded just five runs and picked up a crucial wicket which saw Narrabri score a five-run win, denying the home side what would have been a remarkable comeback win.

Cameron told The Courier that he was pleased with his side’s ability to get the job done when the match was in the balance.

“We fought really hard,” Cameron said.

“It was a game that five or so years ago we probably would have dropped but the guys fought until the end and found a way to win.”

Cameron said that his decision to go with Smart for the final over came down to two factors.

“Spin had been pretty good at restricting runs in the innings,” Cameron said.

“Also, I’ve played a lot of cricket with Smarty over the years and I knew he’d be able to do it and he did.”

Cameron said that he was impressed with the way that Cooper Brayshaw (56) and Chris Sargent (49) batted on the day, as well as the way Dylan Smith, Jade Lees, Sargent and Smart bowled towards the end of the day when the match was on the line.

The win saw the NDCA men boost their hopes of playing in a third straight War Vets Cup grand final.

In fact, a round three win at home against Gunnedah would earn the Pink Slugs the top spot on the four-team ladder and would secure them a home grand final.

Narrabri has now won two matches from two attempts heading into that final round game.

That left the side in outright first position following the other round two result which saw Tamworth down Gunnedah.

Gunnedah, which won against Inverell in round one, batted first at home against Tamworth and scored just 114 runs before being bowled out in the 43rd over.

Tamworth lost eight wickets before reaching the required total in the 38th over of its chase.

Narrabri finished round two on 12 points, five points clear of both second-placed Gunnedah and third-placed Tamworth.

Inverell is fourth on two points and is a long shot to qualify for the December 15 grand final.

However, all three of the other teams in the competition can comfortably earn a place in the decider.

A win against Gunnedah in round three on December 8 will bring the grand final back to Collins Park, the venue where Narrabri won its most recent War Vets Cup back in 2018.

If Narrabri loses in round three it would still have a chance to qualify for the grand final, and even earn the hosting rights for it.

If the Pink Slugs lose and Tamworth also loses then Narrabri and Gunnedah would both finish in the top two spots on 13 points, with net run rate to decide who finishes first.

However, if Narrabri loses and Tamworth wins then Narrabri, Gunnedah and Tamworth would all finish on 13 points and net run rate would not only decide which team hosted the grand final, but also which of the three missed out on playing in the match.

On Sunday in Inverell, Narrabri’s innings was boosted by a young gun and a seasoned veteran who both
excelled with the bat.

Making his debut for the Narrabri first XI after top scoring for the NDCA MA Connolly Cup side in a round one win against Quirindi last month, 20-year-old

Cooper Brayshaw entered the middle at number four and top-scored with 56.

That was before the experienced Chris Sargent scored 49 runs from number eight.

The pair spent time at the crease together as they put on a 48-run partnership.

Earlier in the innings opener Smart (13) and third batsman Luke Meppem (24) both made starts but were dismissed before they could get a roll on.

Then late in the innings the Narrabri tail wagged, helping the side get to its large total after it was in trouble at one stage at 6-103 following a middle order collapse.

Following Sargent from nine to 11 were Nathan Trindall (21), Jay Hall (11*) and Dylan Smith (11*) who guided the visitors to 9-233.

Narrabri was also gifted 37 additional runs via Inverell sundries which helped the cause.

Smith then made an early impact in his side’s defence by taking three quick wickets, trapping Inverell’s top three batsmen in front for a combined 17 runs to make the score 3-24 after nine overs.

Jake Brayshaw then took his side’s fourth wicket, also by LBW, in the 16th over to make the score 4-53.

But a massive partnership helped the home side get back on track as number four batsman Jakob Haines and number six batsman Jaidon Tasker combined for a 93-run partnership to take the hosts to 146 runs after 31.1 overs.

Haines launched Narrabri’s Jade Lees for six from the first ball of that 32nd over to move to 63, but the Civeo spinner responded in the best possible fashion, bowling Haines to make the score 5-146.

Tony Blake entered at seven for Inverell and he and Tasker put on a 78-run partnership to get the hosts within striking distance.

Smart’s first ball in the last over to Blake conceded no runs before the second ball cost Narrabri just a single.

That put Tasker on strike with Inverell needing 10 to win.

The Inverell man went the aerial route and tried to put Smart over the fence, however he was caught by Sargent and departed for a match-high 71 runs.

Smart conceded just four more runs off the final three balls of the over, one of which came from the final delivery where the home side needed a six to draw, as Narrabri held on to win by five runs.