The Narrabri District Cricket Association first XI has advanced to its third straight War Vets Cup grand final which it will host at Collins Park this Sunday after securing a first-placed finish on the four-team ladder.

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Narrabri took on Gunnedah at Collins Park on Sunday in the third and final round of the Northern Inland Cricket Council competition and won by 25 runs.

The hosts batted first and made 178 runs in 47.5 overs.

Gunnedah’s innings lasted an extra ball, however Narrabri knocked over the visitors for 153 runs to book a home grand final against fellow round three winners Tamworth.

Tamworth and Gunnedah entered round three with only net run rate separating the pair.

If Narrabri won its game then Tamworth needed a draw, tie or a victory to join the Pink Slugs in the decider, and the Tamworth first XI got the job done with a crushing win.

It batted first in an away match against Inverell and made 260 in 50 overs before bowling the home side out for just 110 runs in 31.4 overs.

Tamworth will be Narrabri’s third different grand final opponent in as many seasons after the Pink Slugs defeated Inverell in the 2017-18 campaign before losing to defending champs Gunnedah earlier this year in the 2018-19 season.

In the two sides’ first meeting since February 24 when Gunnedah defeated Narrabri by seven wickets to win the cup, the Pink Slugs were too good for their Kamilaroi Highway neighbours on Sunday.

Narrabri skipper Lachlan Cameron won the toss and chose to bat first, sending the left-hand/right-hand combination of Jake Brayshaw and Nick Smart out first for the hosts.

The pair combined for a 15-run partnership before Brayshaw (5) was bowled by Gunnedah’s Troy Sands in the seventh over which made the score 1-15.

That became 2-33 in the 11th over when Sands took his second wicket, removing Luke Meppem (5) who was caught by Blake Small.

Justin Knight entered at four and scored 13 runs before falling victim to a questionable LBW call which made the score 3-60.

In the 28th over Smart raised the bat after reaching 50 runs but it was Gunnedah which was celebrating after the very next delivery due to a mixup between

Smart and his batting partner Cooper Brayshaw which saw the opener run out for a team-best 50, making the score 4-92.

That became 5-100 after the first ball of the 30th over when Brayshaw (13) was bowled by off spinner Sam Doubleday.

Doubleday continued to rip through the middle order, dismissing Steve Phelps (1) and skipper Cameron (25) to make the score 7-126 after 34 overs.

Pink Slugs veteran Chris Sargent ensured the home side would have something defendable to bowl at, scoring an unbeaten 22.

Sargent and the tail which included Jay Hall (9), Jade Lees (11) and Dylan Smith (2) fought hard during the back end of Narrabri’s innings to help the home side finish on 178.

Sands (3-23 from 10 overs) and Doubleday (3-33 from five overs) were the pick of Gunnedah’s bowlers on the day.

Narrabri piled on some early pressure when its defence began with opening bowlers Smith and Nathan Trindall conceding just one run each in their respective first overs, both of which were wides.

That pressure took its toll in the third over when Smith trapped Gunnedah’s Cameron Milne in front for a duck to make the score 1-2.

Trindall went on to bowl four overs in the game and was the only Narrabri bowler not to take a wicket, finishing with an economical 0-9.

However, he struck next for Narrabri in the ninth over when he ran out Gunnedah’s number three batsman Jarrod Adams (5) to make the score 2-24.

In the 17th over Jake Brayshaw bowled a wicket-maiden to claim Narrabri’s third scalp when he dismissed Matt Agostino (7) who was caught behind by Phelps.

That made the score 3-36 and left opener Adam McGuirk at the crease with Doubleday.

Doubleday added five runs to Gunnedah’s total before he was caught and bowled by Jay Hall during a wicket maiden in the 22nd over which made the score 4-62.

The visitors could only add 12 more runs before losing their next wicket which saw Small (3) caught behind by Phelps from the bowling of Hall.

James Mack entered at number seven for Gunnedah to partner McGuirk and the pair guided the visiting side past 100.

However, Gunnedah suffered a double blow in the 39th and 40th overs when Mack (13) was bowled by Lees and new batsman Mitchell Swain (0) was bowled by Chris Sargent.

Those wickets took the score from 5-105 to 7-106 and put Narrabri in the driver’s seat.

Hayden Baker was next in for Gunnedah and in the 45th over he launched Lees for a six to take Gunnedah to 127 runs.

However, Lees replied instantly, dismissing Baker (11) who was caught by Knight from the next ball to make the score 8-127.

In the 48th over McGuirk, who had been in the middle since the start of the innings, was finally dismissed for a game-high 81.

He was caught by Lees from the bowling of Sargent which ended Gunnedah’s slim chances of winning the game.

In the 49th over Narrabri’s Smith needed just three balls to wrap the game up when he trapped Ashley White in front for a duck to secure Narrabri a 25-run win.

That wicket saw Smith finish with a team-best 2-18 from 7.3 overs.

Hall (2-23 from 10 overs), Lees (2-28 from 10 overs), Sargent (2-44 from 10 overs) and Jake Brayshaw (1-27 from seven overs) were the home side’s other wicket takers.