A defiant 39 by Hunter Hitmen skipper Matt Trappel frustrated but ultimately could not halt the Newcastle Blasters charge into the Regional Big Bash Twenty20 semi-finals.
Trappel made his runs off just 37 balls as the Hitmen made 9/103 in reply to the Blasters 9/169.
The Blasters progressed with two wins from their two games, while Illawarra Flames, Central Coast and the Hitmen had one win a piece.
The Blasters bowlers did the damage early against the Hitment with a devastating and equally miserly opening eight overs reducing the Hunter to just 5/22.
It was a similar story in Newcastle’s comprehensive win against Illawarra, when they restricted the Flames to just 7/84 after having them at 5/30 in a strangling opening period.
Against Hunter, Thomas Allen (1-4 of two overs), Andrew Somerville (2-14 off three), Daniel Bailey (2-12 off two) bowled an incredibly disciplined line, forcing the Hitmen to play straight at virtually every ball.
The frustrated Hitmen batsman tried to push the run-rate along but paid the price with the opening pacemen rarely straying from their troubling line.
Matthew Willett backed them up claiming 2-13 off his four overs.
Only Trappel looked on top of the Newcastle bowling hitting three fours and a six while taking quick runs and pushing ones into twos with first Lincoln Mills and then Jacob Page in face saving partnerships of 21 and 33.
Teenagers Page and Callum Gabriel both looked comfortable against some of country NSW’s best cricketers and along with another teenager Isaac Barry, who took a superb catch while substituting in the field, will be part of the Hitmen’s long-term plans.
Trappel said the Hitmen had performed extremely well in patches but had just not been able to consolidate breakthroughs or to maintain pressure for the full 20 overs in their losses to the Flames and Newcastle.
“We probably just didn’t complete the one per centers in the field and with turning the strike over as well as we needed to,” Trappel said.
“But the results across the games showed we’re not too far away and I think we can expect big things from this side over the next three to five years.
“One thing that was never in doubt was the effort and endeavour of the squad,” he said.
Hunter did manage their first win of the Regional Big Bash competition smashing Central Coast Rush by nine-wickets in Sunday morning’s match thanks in no small part to an incredible 6-10 by Northern suburbs all-rounder Lincoln Mills and an unbeaten 49 by fellow all-rounder Josh Trappel.
“They were coming out pretty good,” Mills said in an understated assessment of his performance.
Skipper Matt Trappel was more effusive, describing Mills performance with the ball as outstanding.
“He bowled sensationally and Central Coast were never able to recover. Tim Harding backed up well and Josh (Trappel) compiled a really good innings to get us home with the loss of just one wicket,” he said.
Mills sent a scare through the Hitmen’s camp when he aggravated a shoulder injury in a fielding mishap as he dived to cut off a four.
To his teammates and Northern Suburbs’ relief he was able to bowl, field and bat in the Hitmen’s following game against Newcastle.
The Hitmen lost just one wicket in reaching the target in 14.2 overs with No.3 Josh Trappel top scoring with 49 and opener Josh Tuckwell scoring 18.
The victory set up an exhilarating finish to the four-way Regional Big Bash Twenty20 series with the Flames, Hitmen and Blasters all able to advance to the SCG semi-final series as the winner from the round-robin qualifiers.
The Blasters, whose game against Central Coast on Saturday was abandoned due to water on the pitch , were too good in their Sunday morning match against Illawarra compiling 4/208 at Robins Oval
Jed Dickson top scored for the Blasters making an unbeaten 79 off 41 balls, Dylan Hunter smashed 44 off 22.
After slumping to 5-30, Illawarra were unable to get back into the match and were restricted to 7/84 off their 20 overs.
The Hunter Hitmen lost their rain-shortened clash against Illawarra Flames at Robins Oval on Saturday.
The Hitmen were all out for 132 on the last ball of their 20 overs, with Josh Trappel top scoring 34 off 31 balls after threatened to tear the game apart with big-hitting. But he was eventually tempted him into one big shot too many and he was caught on the midwicket boundary.
When rain finally halted play in the 14th over the Flames were 4/103 and well ahead of the required run-rate under the Duckworth Lewis system.
Lincoln Mills made an early break-through for the Hitmen having Kieren Richards caught for 11, with the score on 19. But the Hitmen were unable to secure their next wicket until the score was 72 when Callum Gabriel held a juggling catch at long-on off the bowling of Tim Harding.