Penrith have qualified for their first ever NSW Premier Cricket T20 Cup Final at the home of NSW Cricket, the Sydney Cricket Ground, after easily accounting for local rivals Hawkesbury by seven wickets earlier today .
Having been sent into bat by Penrith skipper Michael Castle, Hawkesbury looked set to post a strong total with openers Ryan Mizzi (42) and Josh Clarke (27) having steered the Hawks to a promising 0/69 at the halfway mark.
But the dismissal of the ex-Penrith player, Clarke by Black Cats spinner Luke Hodges, sparked a batting collapse of epic proportions, with the Hawks losing 10/27 to be all out for just 96.
Penrith skipper Michael Castle currently leads the T20 Cup for wickets taken. Credit: MIchael Gibson.
Ryan Smith, playing just his third game back from a lower leg injury that had sidelined the quick bowler for most of the season to date, was the chief destroyer, taking 4/18 from his four overs.
Smith was well supported by Penrith's leading wicket taker in all forms of the game in 2017-18, Hodges, who recovered from a horror 0/44 from four overs in yesterday's one-day clash versus Sutherland, to take 3/20 from his four overs.
The three wicket haul continues Hodges' breakout with the left-arm spinner having taken 28 wickets to date in season 2017-18 in all forms of the game.
Despite the early loss of John Di Venuto, skipper Michael Castle smashed 46 off just 25 balls to ensure Penrith's passage to the T20 final and the $12,000 cheque that awaits the overall winner, was effortless.
The Penrith skipper said despite Hawkesbury's strong start, he was confident of the Hawks crumbling under pressure once they lost a wicket or two in quick succession.
"I thought they (Hawkesbury) rode their luck a little bit like I did when I batted, except it came off a little bit more," Castle told Nepean News.
"We stuck to our task and bowled exceptionally well.
"I don't think we ever bowled poorly at any time despite their start.
"While the wicket actually did turn a little bit, which suited Hodges, I thought our seamers Collins and Smith also bowled really well.
"It's not often you can get a really good side like Hawkesbury for less than 100.
"But once we got on a roll they imploded a little bit."
Castle's 46 continues the skipper's form with the bat, having achieved rapid-fire scores of 54 and 44 since promoting himself to the top of Penrith's batting order in recent one-day games.
However the Penrith skipper says the decision to open the innings today came as a result of the BBL franchise Sydney Thunder, imposing a batting restriction on regular opener, Ryan Gibson, who cannot bat higher than 5 with the opening game of the season against cross-town rivals, the Sydney Sixers, just two days away.
"Until now I've just opened in the one day games but with Gibson unable to bat any higher than five today, and I was able to slog a few up top instead."
Penrith, winners of the Thunder conference final, will now play the winner of the Sixers conference final currently taking place between Sydney and Sutherland, tonight at 6:30pm at the SCG.