A TEAM from the Central Highlands has won the under-18 boys state cricket championship.
The Highlanders secured a thrilling two-run victory in yesterday’s final against South East Bayside Breakers at the MCG.
The win clinches the first boys state championship for the Central Highlands region since the complete merger of the country and metro areas in 2000-01 and follows a defeat in the decider two years ago.
Highlanders coach Paull Jeffrey led the side to an unbeaten campaign and said it was a massive thrill to reap the ultimate reward.
“It’s a big achievement to be state champions. We hadn’t lost a game all tournament so we come in probably as favourites and it’s nice to be able to win it,” Jeffrey said.
“It’s relief in the end because there was a lot of pressure, but it’s just a fantastic achievement. They were in the box seat when they were only two wickets down and we just put pressure on them and continued to bowl tight.”
A half-century from skipper Patrick McKenna (58) was important in the Highlanders posting a competitive total of 7-203 batting first.
McKenna, this season’s Victorian under-17 captain, followed some good work by Australian under-19 squad member Matt Short, who made 38 at the top of the order.
The pair stood out in a batting card full of contributors, with seven batsmen reaching double figures.
The Central Highlands had the Breakers on the back foot early in their run chase when both openers went cheaply to be 2-2.
But a rebuilding 115-run partnership between Jack O’Toole (70) and Peter Cassidy (50) got the Breakers back in the contest and ensured it would be a fight for the remainder of the day.
Joshua Slater (31) proved a handful for the Highlanders down the order and, when he departed with the score at 8-185, the match dangled in the balance.
Needing 11 to win from the final over, the Breakers would have fancied their chances, with the powerplay allowing just three fielders outside the inner circle.
But the left-arm off-spinners of Josh Tong proved too difficult to get away for the chasing side, which could only manage 201 with a run out on the last ball of the innings.
Tong’s wicket in the final over secured him figures of 5-26 and man of the match honours.
He was one of five spinners used by the Central Highlands throughout the day.