BEND THE BACK: Gympie Gold bowler Troy Ashton throws everything into this delivery against the Caboolture batting.
BEND THE BACK: Gympie Gold bowler Troy Ashton throws everything into this delivery against the Caboolture batting. Darryn Smith

Thrilling finish to cricket season ... if rain holds off

GYMPIE captain Troy Ashton says the gut-wrenching disappointment of last year's grand final loss to Caboolture will motivate his side to victory against its old foe in today's Sunshine Coast Cricket decider at Caloundra.

Ashton, who has been with the Gold throughout its 16-year wait for a maiden premiership, has come close to winning the title twice.

He admitted he was haunted by the memory of last season's defeat.

"I haven't slept much in the last couple of days and I know what it feels like to lose," he said.

"We spoke about that at the start of the first day of play last week and we certainly wouldn't like a repeat, that's for sure."

His side needs to make 162 runs with nine wickets in hand today.

"We know we have got a job to do but you wouldn't play cricket if you weren't confident," Ashton said.

"One of these days it has got to come off and hopefully (today) is our day."

A wet week has dramatically changed the landscape in the SCCA Division 1 decider, yet an outcome on the field still seems the most likely result.

Caboolture, which is vying for its fourth straight title, holds the upper hand with a first innings lead and a much fresher pitch to bowl on but Gympie now knows the fate is up to the skill of its batsmen.

Fortunes fluctuated on the first two days of the match, with Caboolture under-achieving on a perhaps too-dry pitch to total 165, then Gympie succumbed to indecision at the end of a promising opening day to walk off at 5-50.

The resumption next morning found the Gold again unsure, with only a dashing 87 from Kaden Dickfos dragging his side to within 27 runs of the Snakes at 138.

Caboolture could have sealed the game from there with a dedicated batting effort as was done to win the title last year.

BUT the Snakes kept the door open as the Gold bowlers mounted pressure to close the innings for just 154.

This gave Gympie the sniff of a maiden premiership that was a mere 182 runs distant. At stumps at 1-18 last Sunday, the Gold batsmen looked forward to the final stanza.

But that was six days and 150mm of rain ago, and Henzell Oval has a much greener tinge and the wicket a feel much different to the opening days. Humidity and condensation softens the parched surface, which has necessarily been deprived of the rolling and baking sun needed to complete any preparation.

One benefit of a rain-starved summer is that grounds quickly soak up the first rainfall, and 24 shower-free hours will remove nearly all traces of surface moisture, a far cry from conditions in a usual wet season final.

How the wicket will play is up to the care that has been able to be given in the last clear spell before play.

Caboolture is banking on having the runs on the board and a good track record at keeping Gympie's scores down.

Yet when players take the field today, the mind games will start, with batsmen wary of track and movement, and bowlers under pressure in changed conditions.

This will be a test for both, and as wickets fall or runs mount and the score gets nearer to the desired 183 target, then the deserving winner will emerge.


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