Tallangatta’s high-profile import Dilhara Lokuhettige has smashed a half-century in a thrilling last-over win in the US version of the Big Bash.
The former Sri Lankan international blasted 54 from 26 balls as the US All Stars edged out Al-Masafi, which boasts a number of Afghanistan’s World Cup outfit.
Tallangatta team-mate Matt Armstrong was ruled out after he was hit in the mouth during the warm-up, and received stitches, although he did field as a sub.
“This is definitely a career highlight for me, I’ve had some individual honours, but achieving success as a team is what I really enjoy,” Armstrong said.
‘And being able to get together with a diverse group in a short period of time was really special.”
The All Stars were captained by Hasan Raza, the youngest Test player in history, at only 14 for Pakistan.
“I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time talking tactics with him, I learned so much about the mechanics of the game and how to prepare physically and mentally,” Armstrong said.
The winning team had five former internationals, including Pakistan off-spinner Saeed Ajmal.
“He was an amazing guy to be around, very quietly spoken but also supremely confident and a fierce competitor,” Armstrong said.
But the Bushies’ coach says his own team-mate was the most influential player.
“Dilhara proved to be the most successful and knowledgeable T20 player in the tournament,” he said.
Dilhara proved to be the most successful and knowledgeable T20 player in the tournament ... the international players regularly went to him for guidance.Matt Armstrong
“The international players regularly went to him for guidance.
“He scored 50 twice, took regular wickets and averaged only six runs per over in a tournament where 170 was a par score.
“Playing with the internationals really brought out the best in him.”
The 36-year-old is Cricket Albury-Wodonga’s first international player in almost a quarter-of-a-century.
He played nine one-dayers and two T20’s for Sri Lanka, the last in 2013.
Due to the success of the Bushies’ top order, particularly the association’s leading run-scorer Armstrong, Lokuhettige has been starved of opportunities with the bat, with four not outs in his six innings.
He has 10 wickets at 16.80.
The all-rounder and Armstrong shared in the US 50,000 prizemoney, which is almost AUD 67,000, between the 14 players and two managers.
Armstrong batted at number four.
“The conditions were very different to Australia, the wickets played very low without a blade of grass on them, similar to the subcontinent,” he said.
The All Stars’ pair will now look to return Tallangatta to top spot.
The weakened Bushies suffered their first loss to North Albury, allowing Wodonga to jump ahead.