Intelligent cricket was the key on Thursday as the Country Lions under 17s finished their State Challenge campaign on a high.
After suffering a heavy loss to the Country Kangaroos in a day-night clash under lights on Thursday, the Lions bounced back and got one over their regional rivals in Thursday morning's Twenty20 match.
The commanding eight-wicket win at No. 2 Oval, recorded with six balls to spare, meant the Lions finished with two wins and a loss to their name.
"It was nice to get one back on them," Lions coach Lee Kirk said after Thursday's win.
"It was a great test because we finished the one-day game at 10pm (on Wednesday) and quite often you're buzzing after a game like that and you go home and can't sleep, so I think a lot of the boys had a late night.
"Then you go into an early morning Twenty20 but they handled it well. It was a pretty neat chase so I'm happy and it's a great experience for the boys."
The Lions - featuring Western Zone young guns Riley Keen and Angus Parsons - produced a consistent bowling performance across the 20 overs after being sent out to the field.
Bathurst junior Parsons (1/20) was one of two wicket-takers while Keen, who plays in Dubbo with RSL-Colts wasn't able to bowl due to a slight side strain suffered earlier in the week.
Despite a 100-run partnership between Sam Weir (64 off 50) and Blake Faunce (37 off 62) the tight bowling from the Lions meant the Kangaroos were never able to truly kick-on and they finished with 2/118 on Thursday.
The chase was tight at times but after Lachlan Malcolm (37 off 41) and Jake Scott (22 off 26) put on 54 for the first wicket, Hayden Forner and Bailey Creer steered the Lions home.
While Creer was dropped late on, the pair never panicked and were happy to take multiple singles an over rather than go for the big shot.
"Sometimes with the kids this age you can worry about them wanting to be BBL (Big Bash League) players and getting a bit funky, be too aggressive, and play strange shots," Kirk said.
"That isn't needed. We try and encourage normal cricket shots. Just be a bit more proactive and be smart with your running and, to be fair, both sides were pretty good at that.
"I think the other Country side just swung a bit too hard."
It's a great experience and a great level of cricket.Lee Kirk
This week was one of Kirk's first times with a Country side after previously working with metropolitan teams.
After moving to the Central Coast from the city he became more involved with the regional game and savoured being a part of the week in Dubbo.
"I love it," he said.
"It's a great experience and a great level of cricket. In my experience, the metro boys are normally a bit above the country boys at this point in time but they bring it together by the time the (national) championships start."
COVID has hugely impacted the national championships in recent years given travel between states has been near impossible at times.
However, the plan is for a NSW under 17s side has to again compete at the under 19 national championships to gain more experience.
The Sydney Sharks defeated the Sydney Scorpions in Thursday's other under 17s match.
In the under 14s, the Sydney Stallions finished as champions.
The only division which featured a final after three previous days of action, the under 14s finished with the Stallions downing the Sydney Sharks by a dominant seven wickets.
Dubbo's Cooper Giddings made 26 on Thursday as the Lions under 14s finished with a convincing 92-run win over the Sydney Stags.
In the women's under 19s, the Sydney Scorpions were the standouts after winning each of their three matches this week.
In terms of individual performances, Women's Big Bash League player Jade Allen delivered on the hype.
Having previously represented the Sydney Sixers, the youngster was joint highest wicket-taker in the women's under 19s with five wickets.
Shlok Patel also starred with the ball and he finished as highest wicket-taker in the under 14s.
Patel was one of four under 14s bowlers to take a five-wicket haul in Dubbo and his 5/22 was part of 10 wickets across the week.
Three batters made centuries across all grades for the week.
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