NORTHERN Knights went to the top of the Inter-provincial Championship table but only after escaping with a draw after an exciting finish to their game against the North West Warriors at Comber.

New Ireland call-up Nathan Smith faced 64 balls, including the whole of the last over from Warriors skipper Andy McBrine, with the Knights eight wickets down in their second innings.

It was the first time the Knights had actually batted in the match as, after the complete wash-out of Wednesday’s play, McBrine agreed to declare his side’s first innings as their overnight total, opposite number James Shannon forfeited the Knights’ first knock and the day started with Warriors batting a second time, to add to their tally of 208 from Tuesday.

Their second declaration left the Knights 293 to win in what proved to be 79 overs but they shut up shop six overs before the close after losing their eighth wicket when still 41 short of victory. Smith and Gary Kidd, who faced 25 balls for seven, did the rest.

The extra first innings points put the Knights two clear at the top of the table but Leinster Lightning were the happiest of the three teams as they are now just 10 points behind with two games still to play.

The Knights’ next match is the 50-over Cup game between the teams and Adam Dennison comes in for James Magowan in the only change with Chris Dougherty getting the gloves back.

The team was picked before Dougherty’s 29 yesterday but it was a much different innings to the one he will have to play on Sunday. He faced 72 balls yesterday — only Shannon faced more — as he laid the foundations for the Knights’ chase.

Requiring just four runs an over, the target was always gettable if they kept wickets in hand but credit to the Warriors, they kept taking them just when the Knights were getting themselves into a winning position.

After the second-wicket stand of 66 between James McCollum and Shannon, the next best partnership was 36 and without a substantial innings, the Knights ultimately lost their way.

The big fish was Shannon who was in superb form, reaching 50 from 65 balls, but the loss of Lee Nelson immediately afterwards to a superb catch at slip by McBrine and then the return of Craig Young and Johnny Thompson put a break on the runs.

Shannon’s next eight used up 19 balls and then, trying to break free, he pulled the Ireland international straight to deep square where Davy Scanlon took a simple catch.

Greg Thompson and Graeme McCarter are two free-scoring batsmen but they were caught between maintaining the run rate and keeping their wickets intact and, like the rest of the lower order, they were caught betwixt and between.

Both were caught off McBrine and when his spin partner, Steve Lazars, trapped Jacob Mulder in front the Knights took the decision to restrict the Warriors’ points advantage and play out for the draw.