Riverina’s lack of T20 experience proved crucial as Central Coast skittled the home side on Wednesday.
NSW contender Harrison Townsend was superb, taking 3-19 as his undefeated opposition was restricted to 8-88 at Wodonga’s Les Cheesley Oval at under 16 level.
“We panicked under the situation of not having played T20, whereas those blokes certainly had and it showed,” Riverina coach Sam O’Connor said.
“Their top-line kids certainly have (T20 experience), they have a couple looking at State honours as well and you could tell they’re a level above in terms of their experience in the T20 format of the game.”
Left-armer Townsend had top three batsmen Miles Hemann-Petersen (eight) and Josh Mills (six) stumped and then claimed Wagga’s Connor Willis (nine).
“He was very good, he really stunted us and bowled exceptionally well,” O’Connor said.
Riverina never recovered with Kyle Bennett (18 not out), emerging Cricket Albury-Wodonga talent Liam Parkinson (16) and Sam Stening (15no) contributing more than half the total.
In reply, openers Harry Channells and the talented Townsend put the match beyond doubt with a 71-run stand.
Channells finished with 53 from 50 balls.
“We took it deep, that was one of the more pleasing things at the end of the game,” O’Connor said.
“We’ve bowled and fielded well, our bowling depth is exceptionally strong, even when we had to rest our opening bowlers Liam Parkinson and Damian Wells.”
Meanwhile, Riverina bounced back in the afternoon T20 clash against Central Northern.
The visitors were skittled for just 97 from 18.3 overs with Willis snaring 5-8 from three overs.
“He bounced back after he struggled a bit in the morning (against Central Coast),” O’Connor said.
“He used the pitch well and had good control.”
Central Northern was 2-49 at one stage, losing 8-48.
“The spin of Connor Willis, James Roche and Coby Fitzsimmons has been a major weapon for us, having the three different types,” O’Connor said.
The spin of Connor Willis, James Roche and Coby Fitzsimmons has been a major weapon for us, having the three different types.Sam O'Connor
Josh Mills top-scored with 27 before he retired, while Blake Walker chipped in with 22 from 24 deliveries as Riverina claimed the match with six wickets left and 4.2 overs remaining.
The home outfit was 3-43, but a 44-run stand between Mills and Walker put the match beyond doubt.
Riverina heads into Thursday’s final round clash against Greater Illawarra at the Lavington Sportsground with a three-one win-loss record.
Greater Illawarra posted a strong win over ACT Southern Districts on the opening day, but then suffered successive losses to Central Northern and Newcastle.
Central Coast is the defending champion after Riverina snared the previous title.
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