Narrabri District Cricket Association’s representative first XI left Tamworth on Sunday afternoon wondering what could have been after suffering a 73-run loss in the grand final of Northern Inland Cricket Council’s 2023/24 season MA Connolly Cup competition at Number One Oval.

The Pink Slugs had the victory in the palm of their hands during the first innings of the contest as they had Tamworth on the ropes at 7-110 after 38 overs. However, the home side’s skipper Callum Henry rallied late as he blasted a timely century to get his side back on the front foot. Henry struck eight fours and two sixes on his way to 103 runs before he was the home side’s 10th and final wicket to fall from the final delivery of the innings as Tamworth scored 190 runs in 50 overs.

The NDCA men made 117 runs in reply before losing their 10th wicket in the 41st over of the second innings as Tamworth claimed the cup for the first time since 2019.

Henry was named the player-of-the-match following his match-winning effort with the bat.

The Pink Slugs started the game on the front foot when Cooper Brayshaw took the big wicket of Blake Scicluna (0) in just the second over with the assistance of a Nathan Trindall catch just one week after the Tamworth opener had guided his side into the decider with 82 runs against Gwydir in the seventh and final round of the regular season.

The next four Tamworth batsmen were all dismissed by Dylan Segundo as the Narrabri quick took 4-21 during a seven-over spell to remove Harry Lewington (15), George Wilson (4), Aaron Baker (13) and Michael Rixon (12).

That made the score 5-52 after 23 overs, which became 6-64 in the 26th when Hamish Duncan claimed the wicket of Sanjiv Weerasingham (3), who was caught behind by Lachlan Woolford.

Conrad George (19) made a start during a 46-run partnership with his skipper before being caught from the bowling of Cody Kember in the 38th over as the score became 7-110, but the home side’s captain Henry then took over as he guided Tamworth to 190, bringing up his century with a six in the 48th over.

Segundo (4-35 from 10 overs) was Narrabri’s best with the ball, openers Brayshaw (2-17 from 10 overs) and Trindall (2-45 from 10 overs) claimed two wickets each, while Kember (1-23 from eight overs) and Duncan (1-49 from nine overs) chipped in with one each.

It was a frustrating chasing innings for the Pink Slugs, during which they could not put together a partnership of more than 26 runs and their top run-scorer was their number seven batsman, Brayshaw, with 28 after the top order failed to fire.

The score was 5-48 in the 21st over as Duncan (11), Jakeb Nipperess (2), Nick Tomlinson (9), Matt Bradshaw (9) and Woolford (9) were all dismissed cheaply.

Brayshaw then put on a 23-run sixth-wicket partnership with Josh Schwager (8) and a 26-run seventh-wicket partnership with Will Ford (13), but they too fell cheaply and the score was 7-97 after 36 overs.

The Pink Slugs still had plenty of firepower to come with Matt Conroy at nine and Kember at 10, but the game started slipping away from the NDCA side even faster when Brayshaw was caught on 28 in the 37th over and the score became 8-97.

Conroy (7) and Kember (12) took the Pink Slugs past 100, but they both eventually departed as Segundo was left stranded on no runs and the Pink Slugs fell 74 runs short of victory.

The representative season is still not over for the NDCA men, who will now turn their attention to the upcoming Country Cricket NSW Plan B Country Plate grand final.

They won their way through to that match with a three-wicket victory on the road against Gilgandra on Sunday, February 4, and learned after the MA Connolly Cup final that they would be taking on Highlands District Cricket Association in the decider in Sydney.

Highlands travelled to Harden, just north west of Canberra, to challenge CAW District on Sunday, and they won by two wickets after chasing 125 runs eight wickets down.

The decider was initially scheduled to be played on Sunday, February 25 in Sydney, however, a date and venue have not yet been locked in.

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