There were heroes aplenty as Illawarra's u17 NSW Youth Championship team defied all the odds to record a nail-biting semifinal victory over the previously undefeated Sutherland 2 on Sunday.
The win has propelled Illawarra into a Watson Shield grand final showdown against Sutherland 1 at Glenn McGrath Oval this coming Sunday.
Illawarra co-coach Mark Johnston, himself an Illawarra Watson Shield opening batter in 1991 and veteran of 380 plus first grade games for Keira, described Sunday's win as "one of the best I have been associated with in junior or senior cricket".
It's hard to argue this point after the Illawarra team Johnston co-coaches with Will Badger impressed with bat and ball to prevail in a nail-biter over the powerful Sutherland 2 outfit, which chose to bat first after winning the toss.
Tonkin Oval had escaped the major rainfalls that had seen most Illawarra cricket cancelled across the weekend but the umpires decided that bowling would be entirely from the southern end.
Illawarra bowlers responded well early on, with Darcy Norris, Joshua Garnero and Tyler Davidson restricting Sutherland to just 1/41 after 16 overs thanks largely to 76 dot balls.
Spin twins Finn Warburton (aged 17 and standing 6'4") and Oliver Smith (14 and just 5'5") then combined after drinks for 20 overs with Smith collecting a very handy three wickets.
Though cruising at 3/112 at the second drinks break Sutherland looked set to post upwards of 200 runs.
But then Illawarra hit back with the next seven overs yielding 4/29, with Smith and William Muller snaring the wickets and Tyler Davidson holding onto three sharp catches at mid-wicket.
Muller finished with the impressive figures of 5/5 from just 19 balls bowled.
The medium pacer raced to 3/3 off his first two overs and started his third over chasing a hat-trick of wickets.
Muller missed out on a hat-trick but took a wicket from his next ball before snaring another wicket later in the over as Sutherland were bowled out for 159 in the 44th over.
Illawarra fancied their chances of chasing 160 for victory but their grand final dreams were soon in tatters after they slumped to 3/6 after just five overs.
Fortunately captain Joshua Garnero (36 runs) and opener Jack Cattley then combined for a patient 88-run partnership to give Illawarra a sniff off victory.
But after Cattley (55) fell at 4/94, Illawarra could manage just 18 runs in the next 10 overs and had stumbled to 7/112 - leaving a very unlikely 48 further runs required, with just nine overs remaining.
Enter TIGS school mates Darcy Norris and Tyler Davidson, batting at 8 and 9.
The Illawarra bowling duo came into the match as joint leading wicket takers for the team, but found themselves determined to show their wares with the bat.
Batting confidently, Norris (26 not out) and Davidson (27 not out) guided Illawarra to a "sweet victory" with just four balls to spare.
Johnston said Norris and Davidson were two of just four players to have played in all eight games to date.
"They have bowled accurately and taken wickets with the new ball for us each week," he said.
"When they came together to bat with seven wickets down and still needing 48 runs off the last 9 overs, I thought it was going to be too much of a task. But they combined brilliantly to tick the scoreboard over and ran very well to keep the required run rate in check.
"They then played some great shots against a very determined Sutherland attack to get the job done with four balls remaining, to the delight of their team mates, coaches and supporters.
"We would not have had any chance of winning if Jack Cattley and captain Josh Garnero had not combined for an excellent fourth wicket partnership of 88.
"Likewise, we would have been chasing a significantly higher score on a deteriorating pitch if it was not for the superb bowling of young spinner Oliver Smith (3/36) and medium pacer Will Muller (5/5)."