Illawarra are just one win away from playing in the Watson Shield grand final after all-rounder Logan Jensen played a starring role in guiding his team to a narrow three-wicket U17 Cricket Youth Championships win over Eastern Suburbs.
Jensen starred with bat and ball in Illawarra's preliminary final win on Sunday at King George V Oval in Port Kembla.
Jensen snared 2/25 off 10 overs, took a stunning outfield catch and held the Illawarra innings together with a patient and determined 43 not out off 111 balls to guide Illawarra into next Sunday's semifinal against Sutherland 2 in Cronulla.
The preliminary final was originally slated to be played at Keira Oval but was moved to King George vOval after the umpires deemed the ground unfit to play.
Illawarra won the toss and sent Eastern Suburbs in to bat.
Easts, last years grand finalists, had registered two scores well over 300 runs in the preliminary rounds, but their prolific top order was unable to get on top of Illawarra's attack and struggled to score at two runs an over on a slow outfield.
Illawarra's medium pacers Josh Garnero, Darcy Norris, Tyler Davidson and Jensen all bowled tightly and kept Easts' batsmen under pressure.
Spinners Harrison Deck (2/26 off 9) and Finn Warburton (1/24 off 8) then continued the pressure in the middle overs before Jensen and Davidson returned after the 40th over to take the final five wickets.
Easts were all out for 124 from 47.3 over with Davidson collecting 3/19 off 8.3 overs.
Illawarra co-coach Will Badger was very happy with his bowlers' performance.
"That was just an awesome stint of quality bowling," he said.
"Easts are used to scoring at six runs per over, but they could only manage 15 scoring shots from our first 22 overs - and most of those were edges.
"Batters find themselves waiting for a bowler they can score off and our bowling attack is just relentless."
Illawarra's run chase started slowly against a fired-up Easts outfit. This behaviour also saw the umpires later hand Illawarra a five-run penalty for unfair play.
Illawarra slumped to 4/25 and were in big trouble before Jensen combined with captain Garnero in a 60 run stand before Garnero departed for 28
Illawarra then lost two quick wickets and were 7/100 before Jensen took control to polish off the target in the 44th over to book a semi final with Sutherland (2) on Sunday at Cronulla, much to the pleasure of co-coach Mark Johnston, who was extremely pleased with Jensen's knock.
"Logan played a very smart innings with great shot selection in difficult conditions against a strong bowling attack that were on top when he came to the crease at 4/25," he said.
Meantime, Cricket Illawarra's U12 representative side playing in the Division 2 Foster Shield competition, also progressed to the semifinals after a 27-run win over Lake Macquarie at Rex Jackson Oval No.2 last Sunday.
Illawarra batted first and posted 6-130 thanks largely to solid contributions from Kynan Merola (48 not out) and wicket-keeper.batter Brody Quin (33).
Merola also impressed with the ball, snaring 2/20 as Lake Macquarie were bowled out for 103 after 37.2 overs.
Illawarra skipper Digby Haran was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3/9 from eight economical overs, while Curtly Lloyd claimed 2/11 from seven overs.