Jones targets double success
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
AS captain Nigel Jones admitted it was not the ideal preparation for a final but the class of the retired Ireland international shone through as CIYMS won the AJG Challenge Cup for the second time in three years.
His highest cup final score of 80, added to two wickets, won him the man of the match award and his fourth winners’ medal but he was just grateful to play a full part in the match.
Jones, who has been in Jersey for the last week as assistant coach to the Ireland Under-19 team, began the day in Southampton and was set to miss the start of the NCU showpiece as he was scheduled to fly into Belfast via Manchester. But, at the last minute, he got on a direct flight and with a delayed start at Comber, he made it into the middle just as the toss was about to take place.
“My flight out of Jersey on Friday night was delayed so I missed the connecting flight out of Southampton by five minutes,” said Jones. The flight this morning was overbooked but, thankfully, somebody else got booted off and I got on. I landed at 10.30 and made it here for 10.55 ready to go, straight out to the toss with my clothes from yesterday still on! I’m delighted for the boys that I could help them to victory.”
Jones loves batting at Comber – as host club North Down know to their cost - and his partnership of 126 for the fourth wicket with Ryan Hunter proved the winning one after they had bowled out Instonians for just 208.
“It’s always nice in a big game to contribute in a big game so pleased I did. But I’m particularly pleased for Hunter. I dropped him down the order (from his usual No 3 slot) and that freed him up. He batted beautifully (65 not out from 64 balls) and delighted for him that he saw us home.
But for us Jacob Mulder’s three wickets were brilliant, although getting the wicket of James Shannon (36 off 40 balls) in my second over, I felt that was crucial because if he bats 25-30 overs, the game is well on.
“So that was key and then to get Whitey (Andrew White) their glue, I call him, for just one was big as well. Nikolai (Smith) still held the innings together but when we him for 67, we were then able to dictate the game.
“They would have wanted 250-260, so I said to the boys in the changing room at half-time that from here it was a mental thing, not a skills thing. It always is with us, we are so up and down.
“But it was beautiful wicket as it always is at North Down, slightly two-paced if you banged it in, but I was happy to chase 209.”
The pace of his innings confirmed that. He took 20 balls getting from 46 to his second half century in a cup final, content that the run-rate of just over four an over was always in control, even after losing three wickets for 67.
On the day they were supposed to be playing Waringstown in the Premier League at The Lawn, with CI having six games left Jones believes the league and cup double is still a realistic target.
The league is pretty close and hopefully we can kick on from this, I think four losses could take the league, we’ve lost three so far so hopefully we can keep winning.”
As for Instonians, their defence of the league title is in tatters – they have lost six of their first nine -and have been too reliant on the top three batsmen. They need a second spin bowler to back up Andrew White and with Stephen Bunting unable to bowl on Saturday, the other six used were all the same and all to CI’s liking.