Defending Connolly Cup premiers Gunnedah travelled to Tamworth on Sunday for what looked to be the toughest match-up on the calendar and the visitors soon found out what they were in for.

To start the day off, Tamworth won the toss and elected to bat, leaving Gunnedah fielders in the searing heat for 50 overs. To make matters worse, the opening partnership put up 86 runs before Simon Norvill was dismissed by Mornington captain, Rhyce Kliendienst for an LBW. 

Corey Summers followed 20 runs later as Tamworth was left 2-106. D Bryant came in at second drop and put up 23 runs to form a 52-run partnership with Hayden Baker who opened the batting. 

Sam Doubleday picked up a wicket three runs later giving Gunnedah a hint of momentum as Tamworth stood at 4-161.

But Baker continued to pose a threat to Gunnedah’s bowling attack and eventually fell for 120 runs off 117 balls. The former Albion cricketer moved to Tamworth to play for Old Boys in the 2019-20 season and has remained in the city ever since. The century helped his side set a total of 260 runs in 50 overs.

It was a steep mountain for Gunnedah to climb and with Oscar King clean bowled for eight runs, the visitors were left 1-11 early in its innings.

Brodie Cleal was out next on 10 runs before Kliendienst added a further 16 runs to leave Gunnedah 3/64 as Mitch Swain and Blake Small steadied the ship. Swain played with freedom and it appeared as if Gunnedah was on track for an unthinkable chase down, however, it wasn’t meant to be.

After hitting three sixes and the only batter able to achieve the feat of clearing the boundary on the full, Small fell short of a half-century as Gunnedah was 5-160.

A bottom order collapse saw Gunnedah pick up eight runs in total as they were all out for 168 runs off 35.2 overs. 

Similar to his dominance with the bat, Baker was the pick of the bowlers. The four wickets off nine overs was enough to startle Gunnedah’s batters with only 36 runs conceded – the highest of Tamworth’s bowlers. 

Baker also picked up two catches to top off a man of the match performance. Tamworth tops the table ahead of CNZ Colts and Quirindi in second. It leaves Gunnedah in fourth spot in front of the Narrabri Pink Slugs.

Gunnedah will play Quirindi at Wolseley Oval on January 30, marking the final game of the season. Meanwhile, Narrabri welcomes Tamworth to Collins Park as the CNZ Colts have the bye. The semi-finals are set for February 13 as the final is yet to be announced.

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