Bandon Crowned Munster Schools T20 Champions
A low scoring but absorbing final as last week Bandon Grammar School were crowned Munster Schools T20 champions for the very first time, beating competition debutants CBS Sexton Street by 16 runs under glorious skies at the Mardyke.
An edition heavily affected by bad weather in April and the beginning of May meant that we had two first-time finalists, as an ever-improving Bandon came into the game against Sexton Street clear favourites, having comfortably best them on their own patch in the group stage a few weeks previous.
Sexton Streetís journey even to get here has been exceptional, the inner-city Limerick school had their team made up of children of almost exclusively an Asian background, with their nearest home pitch all the way out in Adare.
The side were expected to find their feet in the first year, but victories over Midleton College, and last year's finalists PBC, meant they were more than deserving of their place at the top table.
Key to their success this season has been the bowling of Usman Azaad, who ripped into Bandonís top-heavy order early, bowling both Jack Buss (6) and Liam Edwards (15), and as Bandon wickets began to fall regularly it was shaping up to be a much closer contest than some had originally anticipated.
Azaad finished with five wickets from his four overs in two deadly spells, and only for Jackson Gilbertís defiant unbeaten 20, the West Cork school could have been in a much worse position than their 96-6 after 20 overs.
A difficult total to defend, but a Bandon side well trained by John Buss knew that early wickets were crucial to introduce some doubt into the Limerick outfitís minds, and unsettle a side whose batting order showed signs of inconsistencies on the road to the final.
Opening bowlers Gilbert and Daniel Kennedy did a fantastic job of turning the screw early, with the former rewarded with the wickets of both opening batsmen Azaad and Yasin Ahmed.
The Limerick school just couldn't build any meaningful partnerships, perhaps the occasion getting to them, with some wild swings at even the wide balls.
By the time wicketkeeper Paul Jackson pulled out a stunning one-handed reflex catch to dismiss Mosawa Sidiqi from Gilbertís bowling, Sexton Street were 37-6 off just 9 overs, and despite the disastrous start, knew that they could creep towards the target if they could just keep wickets in hand.
That's what Maaz Mohammedi and Yar Lalmahmad set about doing, desperately trying to drag their side back into proceedings.
However some crazy running saw Mohammedi run-out, and soon the wickets would tumble, the final blow on the final ball, as Sexton Street were bowled all out for 80, Bandon crowned champions.