By Nick Creely
Ten of the best Premier Twenty20 sides in Australia came together for the first edition of the National Premier Twenty20 Championship in Adelaide last week, with Dandenong giving it their all to cap off a sublime 12 months with the white ball.
The Panthers – along with fellow Victorian Premier Cricket outfit Carlton – qualified for the tournament which was held on 5 and 6 Match after winning the Victorian Twenty20 title in stunning fashion recently.
Jetting off to Adelaide, the Panthers met North Hobart to kick things off, winning the toss and batting in beautiful conditions.
The Panthers lost dynamic opener James Nanopoulos early, but recovered superbly through the likes of Brett Forsyth (38) and Lincoln Edwards (32), who shared a 53-run stand, before a late cameo to the talented Zach Grundmann-Perera (21 off 14 balls) helped lift the total to 6/141 off 20.
The Demons looked like they might race down the runs after Corey Murfet (38) got away, but the Panthers rallied like the champion side they are to dismantle the middle order and roll them for just 110 with two balls to spare.
Suraj Randiv (2/30), Jakeb Thomas (2/8), James Nanopoulos (2/17) and Grundmann-Perera (2/7) bowled superbly in tandem to guide the Panthers to a dominant victory.
Needing a win to qualify for the finals, the Panthers met Carlton later in the day, hoping to compile yet another victory over their Victorian rivals in a crunch match.
Champion opening pair Tom Donnell (31) and Brett Forsyth (46) sparkled after winning the toss and batting, putting on 73 for the first wicket to help set up what loomed as a monster total.
But aside from a solid 26 by Nanopoulos in the middle, quickie Cam Stevenson (4/3) steamrolled through the middle order to help reduce the Panthers to a gettable 9/138.
A brilliant knock by Evan Gulbis (61 not out) and an equally destructive 51 off 26 from Tom Smyth saw the Blues turn the tables and race down the total with eight wickets and two overs still left.
Narrowly missing out on qualifying for the finals, the Panthers (8/160) finished their tournament the next day by going down to East Torrens (1/173) with Donnell and Forsyth sitting it out to give some youngsters an opportunity.
But it caps off a remarkable 12 months of cricket for the Panthers, who can be extremely pleased of their efforts, and will now turn their attention to defending their Premier Cricket premiership when finals kicks off in the next few weeks.