An incredible, late-order surge from Connor Slattery and Matt Corben lifted Central West to a remarkable victory over the Illawarra Flames on Sunday, one that booked the Wranglers' tickets to the SCG for the Cricket NSW Plan B Regional Bash finals series.
With two wins on the board already the Wranglers only needed a victory to top the Thunder Conference South Coast Pool but, with just 116 required, they looked dead and buried after a monumental collapse brought Slattery and Corben together at 6-44.
They set about resurrecting the chase but with around 10 an over needed for the last handful of overs even Wranglers skipper Jameel Qureshi admitted he wasn't holding onto much hope, knowing full well a loss would hand the Flames top spot in the pool on net run rate.
Honestly I'm just a bit speechless, we were dead in the water midway through the chase.Central West skipper Jameel Qureshi
Incredibly though, Slattery and Corben stayed composed and continued to whittle the target down and eventually the Wranglers needed 11 from Rhys Voysey's last over, a tough ask considering he'd only conceded six from his first three overs.
Slattery (40 from 30) was run out in the final over but it mattered little because he and Corben (29 not out from 24) had done the damage by then, the latter holding his nerve to complete the seemingly-impossible win with Ed Morrish at the other end.
"I'm bloody stoked, I was super nervous going out there to bat and I just wanted to do my bit for the team, but we were in pretty big trouble at that point," Slattery said.
"It was good having Corbs at the other end, I hadn't batted with him but he's a pretty calm bloke, I'm just really happy we got the job done and I'm really keen to get back to the SCG now, we're all excited for that.
"I was there last year but I didn't get to play so I'm really keen, fingers crossed I get to play this year."
The Wranglers will be joined at the SCG by the also-undefeated Lake Mac Attack, who won the Sixers Conference Northern Pool, with the other two semi-finalist to be decided over the next fortnight.
Slattery said his side isn't too fussed on which other outfits qualify for the final four though, the Wranglers will head in confident regardless, particularly knowing they've not played their best cricket yet.
"Absolutely, bloody oath, 100 per cent we can win it," Slattery, who also picked 2-22 with the ball against Illawarra, fired.
Qureshi was still in disbelief after the victory, saying simply "I have absolutely no idea how we've pulled that one off" before going as far as labelling it the best win he's been involved in.
"I think it probably is the best win I've played in, honestly I'm just a bit speechless, we were dead in the water midway through the chase," he said.
"Credit to Illawarra they bowled well early in the innings and set some clever fields and we lost our way a bit, focused too much on boundaries, but it's a pretty incredible feeling to have got the job done there.
"We get to go back to the SCG now which is great, and I don't think we've been at our best yet and I think we've got a lot more to offer, especially with the bat, but we've got plenty of time to work on that."
The Wranglers' chase looked pretty straightforward after Morrish (3-16) spearheaded their effort in restricting the Flames to 9-115, but it proved anything but after Voysey removed Ben Sheehan with the first ball of the innings.
Henry Shoemark (five from nine), Jaden Ekert (seven from 16) and James Larkin (four from 14) all fell quickly, before Wayne Sellers (eight from nine) and Qureshi (12 from 17) departed to, to bring Slattery and Corben together.
"They job they did from where we left them was just incredible, I'm just over the moon," Qureshi said.
The Wranglers put themselves in good stead with Saturday's tournament-opening win over Orana at Wade Park before scoring a three-wicket win over South Coast on Sunday morning in another final-ball thriller.
Central West had restricted South Coast to 7-123 and were cruising at 4-115 in reply after Shoemark (47 from 45) and Larkin (30 from 22) did some damage at the top.
But then they lost 3-2, before Slattery and Morrish stayed composed to nick and nudge the last seven required for victory.
"There was a lot of nervy moments, across the whole day. That first game shouldn't have gone to the final ball but we got the job done regardless," Qureshi said.
The Regional Bash's finals series will be played on January 26.
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