The Marulan Madbulls got their return season off to a dream start, after they claimed the Goulburn T20 Third Grade Championship last Saturday.
The stage was set last weekend for a dramatic climax to the two-month long competition, when Marulan was scheduled to play Hibo Gold in the semi-finals.
Having finished second and third on the ladder respectively, Marulan and Gold were playing for a spot in the grand final, against a dominant Hibo Green outfit which was yet to lose a match.
Due to the unavailability of turf wickets for the finals, the Madbulls volunteered to host both finals on Saturday.
Under the unrelenting country sun, Hibo Gold won the semi-final toss and elected to bat first on Marulan's newly-laid synthetic wicket.
With a small but vocal group of local supporters present, the experienced Madbulls bowling lineup proceeded to strangle Hibo Gold, and restricted them to 5-122 from their 20 overs.
While none of the bowlers took a bag of wickets, most were economical, and Marty Brooker was the standout with his 2-14 off four overs.
In response, Marulan's no-holds-barred style of batting shone through in spectacular fashion, as Dave Insley (86*) and Ben Dunn (36*) steered them to victory for the loss of just one wicket.
The Madbulls were through to the final.
However, the biggest challenge lay ahead for Marulan. Up against the fearsome and well-rested Hibo Green lineup, the Madbulls were, by comparison, mercurial and already fatigued from nearly three hours under the baking sun.
"We did feel like underdogs coming into it," Madbulls captain and president, Rob Collins, said.
"We knew we had a good chance of making it to the grand final, but Hibo Green have been undefeated in the competition. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge to get the win, but all the guys stuck it out.
"We'd just played the game before in 35 degree heat, and we only had a 40 minute break. A couple of the guys were absolutely buggered."
In the second match of the day, Marulan put their grit on display.
When the Madbulls won the toss, they elected to bowl again in order to give the batsmen some extra time to recuperate.
However, shortly after his barnburning knock of 86, Dave Insley was asked to open the bowling, and he did so with aplomb.
Insley's haul of 2-23 from four overs was exactly what Marulan needed to rein in Hibo Green, which only managed 6-121 from its 20 overs.
The rest of Marulan's bowlers picked up a wicket apiece, while only one (Mitchell Conquest) went at more than six runs per over.
Bowling four overs left Insley without much in the tank, and the Madbulls' star batsman was forced to retire hurt in the second innings, unbeaten on 23.
Though he was ready to resume his innings if needed, that sacrifice proved unnecessary as Conquest (46*) steered the chase home with eight wickets and three overs to spare.
Collins was delighted, but unsurprised that his talented side made relatively simple work of a high-pressure chase.
"Once we came off the field and had a little chat, we were reasonably confident. We'd just chased down Hibo Gold, so we knew we definitely had the batting depth,
"We had the heat to think about too, and a lot of the guys were exhausted already."
The victory sparked raucous cheers from Marulan's supporters, and thrilled Collins to no end.
"It's super exciting," he said.
"We've only played Hibo Green twice this year, one was a regular T20 game and the other was the grand final. The guys have stuck together and a lot of combinations are coming together now. We're starting to bond as a team."
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