It may have been bright and sunny in the east of the Province but the late arrival of Spring still cast a shadow over the scheduled fixtures with only one game in each of Section 1 and 2 surviving.
The Premier grounds fared somewhat better with all four games going ahead producing some surprises and close finishes to get the critics talking.
Muckamore have produced more than their share of surprises at Moylena over the years but it was newcomers Armagh who took the points defending 171/8 by 70 runs. Shadley van Schalkwyk top scored for the visitors with 56 the next highest being ‘extras’ with 34!
It was more than enough however as Muckamore crashed to 63/5 and finished with 101 bowled out inside 37 overs with only Jamie Magowan (32) offering resistance.
For Armagh it was Neil Gelston (3-21) who led the way with van Schalhwyk (2-15), Mackey (2-22) and Wilson (2-11) all pitching in on a memorable day for Armagh.
Champions Waringstown struggled to make the breakthrough against Carrick openers Michael Gilmour (67) and Iain Parkhill (21) who added 86 for the first wicket at The Lawn. Jack Burton with 47 kept things going and Carrick finished on 209/5 from their 50 overs.
For the home side none of the seven bowlers tried managed more than one wicket in a lacklustre performance.
“Bowl straight” seemed to be the key to Carrick’s success as they claimed five of the home side’s wickets lbw and it was only a 121 run partnership between Shaheen Khan (53) and skipper Greg Thompson (63) that clawed Waringstown back from 30/4 to 151/5.
Once they had departed however the DLS winning target of 200 was beyond them. A blow for the Champions and a bonus win for the Cowboys to get their campaign under way.
At Stormont it was a case of the usual suspects for Instonians with James Shannon (75) and Nikolai Smith (53) putting on 102 for the second wicket after the early loss of young Olly Metcalfe.
With Andrew White (51) adding to CSNI’s pain the Inst. total of 249/5 was a formidable one at this stage of the season. The CSNI reply was dominated by their new overseas player Andre Malan (91) who combined with Aaron Wright (43) to add 95 for the fourth wicket but in the end the home side came up 17 runs short when the overs ran out.
Seven bowlers used by Instonians but only Getkate (2-44) managed to claim more than a single wicket.
Match of the day was at The Green where North Down emerged 3-run winners over CIYMS in a thriller. Winning the ‘second’ toss (there’s a story in itself) Nigel Jones opted to bowl and with North Down reduced to 56/6 surely it was only a matter of wrapping up the tail, knocking off the runs and heading back to Belmont with the points, wasn’t it?
The drinks break seemed to have an amazing effect on both sides as Peter Eakin (52) and Jay Hunter (34) put together an 88 run partnership that clawed the home side to respectability, the sages round the boundary declaring 150 always to be ‘decent’ score at ‘this time of the season’.
Ruhan Pretorius may not have contributed with the bat but his 5-27 put the skids under the CI challenge. Only Jones with 53 looked capable of resisting the onslaught and while Ryan Hunter, Jacb Mulder and James Cameron-Dow all managed 20’s none could apply the finishing touch and as the tension mounted the run out of David Robinson saw CI 3 runs short with 3 balls unused.
The CIYMS attack must surely be the most potent in the league - Coulter, Jones, McGillivray, Mulder, Britton and Cameron-Dow. Do they need anyone else? Yet in the end it was surely the 34 extras that they conceded that made the difference in this match.
First blood then to North Down in a ‘big two’ battle of nerves. Only one game went ahead in Section 1 with Holywood winning by 5 wickets at Wallace Park.
For Lisburn it was last week’s runscorers again who provided the runs, Mark Berry with 42 and David Simpson with 39. Simpson again with the ball for Lisburn taking 3-8 but an unbeaten half-century from Paddy Beverland (54*) newly arrived from CSNI and 39* from Andrew Haire saw the visitors home.
In Section 2 only the Cliftonville Academy versus Victoria game went ahead at The Castle Grounds and it was a straightforward 9 wicket win for the newly amalgamated side for whom the evergreen Brian Anderson took 3-11 and Francis Collins scored 30* on his old school stamping ground.
Muckamore (0) lost to Armagh (4) by 70 runs.
Armagh 171-8 (S van Schalkwyk 56, G Nichol 3-21) Muckamore 101 (J Magowan 32, N Gelson 3-21, S Wilson 2-11, S van Schalkwyk 2-15, B Mackey 2-22)
Waringstown (0) lost to Carrickfergus (4) by 15 runs.
Carrickfergus 209-5 (50.0 overs, M Gilmour 67, J Burton 47) Waringstown 184-9 (46.0 overs, G Thompson 63, S Khan 53, M McCord 3-26, R Eagleson 3-31) DLS Method: par score 199 in 46 overs.
CSNI (0) lost to Instonians (4) by 17 runs.
Instonians 249-5 (J Shannon 75, Ni Smith 53, A White 51, G McCarter 2-21) CSNI 232-5 (A Malan 91, A Wright 43, A Cowden 31, S Getkate 2-44)
North Down (4) beat CIYMS (0) by 3 runs.
North Down 169 (49.1 overs, P Eakin 52, J Hunter 34, A Coulter 4-41, N Jones 3-13, M McGillivray 2-18) CIYMS 166 (49.3 overs, N Jones 53, J Mulder 25 , R Pretorius 5-27)
Holywood (4) beat Lisburn (0) by 5 wickets.
Lisburn 137 (M Berry 42, D Simpson 39; M Adair 2-25, K Walsh 2-29, R de Freitas 2-29, J Wilson 2-31) Holywood 138-5 (P Beverland 54 not out, A Haire 39 not out; D Simpson 3-8)
Cliftonville Academy (4) beat Victoria (0) by 9 wickets.
Victoria 63 (B Anderson 3-11, C Halliday 2-8, W Mohammad 2-10) Cliftonville Academy 66-1 (F Collins 30 not out)