Century-maker Leary steers Colts to premiership

The 2023-24 premiers Colts.

By Tania Phillips

Colts outplayed minor Premiers Victoria Hill to claim the 2023-24 Warwick and District Cricket Association title snaring Condamine Cup with an impressive 86-run victory at Slade Park, Warwick on Saturday.

Led by a hard-hitting century from in-form batsman John Cleary, Colts smashed up 4/243 and restricted Victoria Hill to just 157 to claim the Cup.

Finishing third on the ladder at the end of the regular season and playing every week of the finals series, Colts were in strong form on Saturday against a Victoria Hill team that hadn’t played in two weeks.

Colts captain and club vice president Al Costello said strong batting was the key to their win though it was a real team effort in the end.

“Our top five almost all contributed with runs,” he said.

“When that happens you generally have a good chance of putting a solid total on the board.

“John Cleary scored 113 off 60-odd and that certainly helps.

“The pitch was very good, and we got sent into bat. We were quite pleased with that really.

“I don’t think they underestimated us. They obviously had a plan to bowl first and that’s what they wanted to do. Both were happy at the toss.

“But our fielding was pretty top-notch and everyone chipped in with a few wickets and bowled tight and they never really got away. It was a real team effort in the field.

“We had a few young kids playing their first grand final, but they really held their own in the field and weren’t over-awed by the occasion. They did well. It was very pleasing and something to build on for next year.”

He said it wasn’t the first time that the side had gone into the final series as underdogs and taken the title.

“Last time we won from third or fourth as well,” Costello said.

“It’s probably an advantage having to win every week and stay in form. Vic Hill haven’t played for two weeks because they got straight through to the final. If you stay in-form and keep playing cricket, you still have that momentum going.”

Winning the toss, Vic Hill sent Colts into bat but it was a decision they would come to regret as Colts smashed their way to their 4/243 off their 40 overs.

John Cleary, one of the leading run-scorers in the competition this year, was the batting hero for Colts hitting up 113 runs off just 69 balls including an amazing 10 sixes and three fours.

Coming in at four, Cleary combined with James Saunders (36 not out) for an impressive 153-run partnership for the fifth wicket. The duo and first drop Maugan Benn, who scored 49, were instrumental in setting up a sizeable total for the minor premiers to chase.

It was a solid score after a shaky start that saw Colts lose opener Matthew Kiernan for just one to be 1/1 early on. Benn combined with opener Lachlan Gross, 26, for a match-steadying 74-run partnership for the second wicket.

However, when Gross became the first of Ricky Sandhu’s two wickets, caught by Ahmed Muneer and then Benn followed soon after, also falling to Sandhu caught Joe Morris for the addition of just 12 more runs, things were looking shaky.

Cleary and Saunders came together when the score was at 3/87 and took it through to 4/240 before Cleary fell to the Bourkes – caught Mitchell off the bowling of Michael.

Ricky Sandhu was the best of Vic Hill’s bowlers taking 2/31 off eight while Michael Bourke, playing in his 10th straight grand final, took 1-46 off seven and Mitchell Bourke, 1-56 from eight overs.

In reply, Victoria Hill were bundled out for 157 in the 33rd over with the Colts bowlers sharing the spoils.

Opening bowlers James Fern, 2/32, and Jack Ragh, 2/27, combine early to have the Vic Hill openers back in the pavilion, Mitchell Bourke for one, and Nick Morris for two, with side struggling at 2/11. Despite some small partnerships, the side never really recovered.

Ahamed Muneer, batting at nine offered late resistance, before falling to Fern caught Cleary for 34 off 36. He was the top scorer, with first drop Amrik Singh Saroa 23 and middle-order batsmen Michael Bourke 27 and Harry Sandu 25 the only other batters to make double figures.

Shaun O’Leary finished with 2/29 and Percy Kruger 2/22 to wrap up the Victoria Hill batting line-up and secure the premiership for Colts.

“We are pretty proud of our season,” Costello said.

“We had 18 qualified for the finals and we had good support from other players. We had 34 registered. You need that support because every week there’s five or six different people who can’t make it for various reasons. You need the squad support throughout the season and qualifying 18 was a huge advantage for us.

“We had a good squad to pick from in the final.”