The ACT Aces will join three other teams in the finals of the T20 Plan B Regional Bash for the first time after the Canberra-based team won all three of their matches in the Wagga Wagga Pool over the weekend.
ACT, Central West Wranglers, Coffs Coast Chargers and Central Coast Rush are the four teams that will feature on finals day. Border Bullets’ off-spinner Jack Craig also claimed the first hat-trick of the tournament on Sunday against Murrumbidgee Rangers.
Craig collected 4-18 from his four overs for the Bullets in their 10-wicket victory over the Rangers.
Opening batsman for the Bullets, Ashley Borella, made 84 not out from just 37 balls in the win. It was the highest score of the weekend and second highest for the tournament this season. His knock included 12 fours and three sixes.
The Aces needed to defeat the Wagga Wagga Sloggers in their last match of the Pool on Sunday to progress to finals day and did so with an emphatic 47-run win.
The Sloggers were dismissed for just 98 in reply to 7/145 posted by the Aces.
ACT now play off against the Wranglers in the Thunder Conference Final, while the Chargers meet the Rush in the Sixers Conference decider to determine the two teams that will contest the Grand Final.
Aces’ top-order batsman Rhys Healy was outstanding for the ACT side in all three matches. He made 133 runs at an average of 66.5 across the weekend highlighted by an excellent 68 from 49 balls against the Sloggers.
On Saturday, ACT defeated Murrumbidgee Rangers by eight wickets. Dean Bennett made 56 in the loss for the Rangers. Healy was 44 not out.
The Aces followed that win with another convincing five-wicket victory over the Bullets before overcoming the Sloggers to seal a place in the finals for the first time.
ACT captain Ethan Bartlett and opening bowler Djali Bloomfield were both stands outs with ball in hand for the Aces over the weekend.
Bloomfield collected six scalps at 11.83, while his skipper claimed five wickets at the remarkable average of 3.8 including pivotal figures of 3-10 against the Bullets.
In the other matches, the Sloggers continued their unbeaten record against the Bullets on Saturday under lights, in front of a healthy crowd, at Robertson Oval in Wagga Wagga.
The last time the Bullets defeated the Sloggers in the Plan B Regional Bash was during the inaugural season of the competition in 2015/16. Wagga Wagga prevailed by four runs on Saturday night.
Indian allrounder Sahib Malhotra was impressive in the narrow loss for the Bullets. The hard-hitting batsman made 55 from 50 balls.
The Sloggers finished second in the Wagga Wagga Pool. The win over the Bullets was followed by a 43-run victory over the Rangers on Sunday before the Aces ended the Wagga Wagga campaign that afternoon.
A solid 59 from 48 balls from Braydon Ambler was key for the Sloggers in their victory against Murrumbidgee. He shared a 108-run opening partnership with Alex Smeeth (42) at the top of the order in the win.
The emphatic victory over the Rangers was the only triumph for the Bullets on a disappointing weekend for one of the favourites to take out the Wagga Wagga Pool.
Wagga Wagga Pool
ACT Aces 2/113 (R Healy 44 not out, C Spink 25 not out, R Trickett 24) def Murrumbidgee Rangers 4/110 (D Bennett 56, A Edis 20),
Wagga Wagga Sloggers 8/136 (B Ambler 29, L Gerhard 26, J Richards 21, S Stephens 2-21, D Tassell 2-19) def Border Bullets 7/132 (S Malhotra 55, N Brown 32, A Jones 2-17, L Skelly 2-30),
ACT Aces 5/103 (J Watling 33 not out, J Misic 32 not out, R Healy 21, D Tassell 2-23) def Border Bullets 9/99 (G Daniel 28, R Jackson 21, E Bartlett 3-10, D Bloomfield 3-26, E Rahman 2-17),
Wagga Wagga Sloggers 7/172 (B Ambler 59, A Smeeth 42, A Maxwell 24 not out, A Edis 2-29) def Murrumbidgee Rangers 6/129 (O Delves 32 not out, D Bennett 22, L Skelly 2-13, K Robertson 2-18),
ACT Aces 7/145 (R Healy 68, S Murn 42 not out, A Smeeth 3-36) def Wagga Wagga Sloggers 98 (A Maxwell 37, E Bartlett 2-2, D Bloomfield 2-14, S Murn 2-20),
Border Bullets 0/110 (A Borella 84 not out) def Murrumbidgee Rangers 106 (J Craig 4-18 (incl hat trick), S Malhotra 2-14, C Suidgeest 2-15).
Final Table: ACT Aces 6, Wagga Wagga Sloggers 4, Border Bullets 2, Murrumbidgee Rangers 0.