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South Queensland edge northern rivals to claim inaugural Michael Mainhardt T20 Indigenous Challenge

Callan Morse -

The South Queensland Men's Indigenous team has taken home intrastate bragging rights after winning the inaugural Michael Mainhardt T20 Indigenous Challenge, which was held last weekend.

The three match T20 series saw some of Queensland's most talented Indigenous cricketers, including several current Queensland Indigenous states representatives, clash at Cairns' Griffith Park.

After each side shared the spoils on Saturday, it was South Queensland who sealed a 2-1 series victory on Sunday morning, defeating North Queensland by a comfortable 60 runs.

South Queensland's victory was setup by a strong opening stand between openers Cruz Baker (51 from 48) and Ethan Du Payne (57 from 47).

The pair combined for eight boundaries and four sixes in their 107-run partnership, setting up a tournament-high total of 6-136.

Zachary Wilson was the best with the ball for North Queensland, taking 2-19 from his four overs.

Townsville-based Indigenous artist Robert Paul's artwork featured on the North Queensland kit. (Image: Queensland Cricket)

In response North Queensland could only muster 76, after being bowled out in 11 overs.

Veteran Queensland Indigenous state representative Jake Coolwell was the pick of the South Queensland attack, taking 4-12 from his four overs.

The seamer was well supported by Banjo Seaniger (3-21) with Cruz Baker also picking up two wickets after his half-century effort earlier in the match.

The tournament is named after Queensland representative, former Queensland men's Indigenous state coach and head selector, Michael Mainhardt, who attended the three-match series to cast his eye owe the next generation of talent.

Mainhardt said he was excited about the future of Queensland's Indigenous talent program.

"The new competition has given us an opportunity to see a number of new players that weren't known to us, particularly from the northern part of the state," Mainhardt said, via Queensland Cricket.

Both sides participated in a barefoot circle before play commenced at Cairns' Griffith Park. (Image: Queensland Cricket)

Earlier, South Queensland also won the opening match of the series after successfully defending their 8-119 by one run.

Zak Patel (31 from 39) top scored for South Queensland with Jamieson Allen (2-16) and JD Wilkins (2-11) each picking up wickets for North Queensland.

North Queensland fell agonisingly short in the chase, bowled out on the second last ball of the match with a single run required.

Jared Petrenko (28 from 39), who top scored for North Queensland was well supported by Kael Newcombe (20 from 23), however tight bowling from Banjo Seaniger (3-22), Noah Gilbert (2-19) and Kodi Gibert (2-19) delivered the win for South Queensland.

However North Queensland gained redemption on their southern opposition in the evening match, winning by 32 runs.

Batting first, North Queensland combined a competitive 5-119 on the back of JD Wilkins' 40 (45), with Jamieson Allan contributing 26 (23).

In response, South Queensland were bundled out for 87 in the 19th over thanks to four wickets from Ashley White, who finished with 4-12 from his four overs.

Cruz Baker's performances with both bat and ball earned him Player of the Series honours. (Image: Queensland Cricket)

Culture was at the forefront of the inaugural series, with both sides wearing newly-designed playing strips featuring the artwork of Queensland Cricket's Reconciliation Action Plan.

The South Queensland side, wrapped in royal blue, showcased the Aboriginal artwork from Mandandanji man, Daniel Blades whilst the North Queensland side, draped in deep yellow, featured artwork from Townsville-based Indigenous artist Robert Paul, a Juru descendant of the Bowen region.

Queensland Cricket has a proud history of promoting the Indigenous talent pathway having won the National Indigenous Cricket Championships / Imparja Cup title six times, with the new fixture aiming to bridge the gap between community cricket and the state's representative side.

Queensland Cricket First Nations Advisory Committee co-chair, Jason Smith, said the initiative will have a wide impact on the strength of First Nations cricket in Queensland.

"The weekend has laid a solid foundation for Queensland's Indigenous pathway to be one of the leading models across the whole country," Mr Smith said.

Queensland Cricket said they plan to expand the competition in future years, with discussions already underway to incorporate an equivalent for the female pathway after the Queensland women's side claimed their maiden National Indigenous Cricket Championships title last season.

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