Great Southern cricketers Tim Kovaleff (Victor Harbor) and Dale Fielke (Myponga) were members of the successful South Australian Intellectually Disabled cricket team at the National Inclusion Championships held in Geelong from January 22 to 26.
The T20 carnival, was played in three categories, the deaf, the blind and intellectually challenge. South Australia played superb cricket and won two of the three titles on offer; the Deaf and the Intellectually Disabled titles.
They defeated Victoria by 6 wickets, which saw Kovaleff take a game turning catch, Western Australia by 5 wickets (Fielke scored 14 runs), NSW by 5 wickets (Fielke took a catch, a run out and made 20 runs), Tasmania by 8 wickets (Fielke 3 wickets and 14 runs), but lost to the powerful Queensland outfit by 33 runs (Fielke a wicket and 12 runs).
SA met Victoria in a semi–final and the SA boys chased down the total of 6/136 and win by 6 wickets (Fielke hit 25 runs at the top of the order). The team was ecstatic at having defeated the Vics, who beat them in last year’s final and having made the grand final.
The grand final was against the undefeated Queensland team. The game was streamed live. SA were sent in for the first time in the tournament on a seaming wicket.
SA lost two early wickets (2/6), but a fighting innings by McQueen 83 not out and May 21 not out saw SA post 3/122 off of their 20 overs. At 5/77, Queensland were well ahead on the run rate however, SA applied the pressure by bowling accurately and fielding brilliantly and Queensland collapsed. Queensland lost their final five wickets for 22 runs, to be all out for 98, giving SA their first title by 24 runs.
A highlight for Fielke in the final was his direct hit run-out to close out the championship. The team was ecstatic. The Title win was brilliant, however, the team spirit, camaraderie and friendships formed both within the SA team and with their opposition, were perhaps even more significant.
The memories and stories of this wonderful experience will be long lasting. To cap of this incredible experience, SACA invited the successful SA teams to do a lap of honour prior to the Adelaide Strikers semi -final. All the team was present in their state colours and wore their Title medallions with pride as they walked their victory lap with their mates.