WARINGSTOWN, the Premier League champions, are out on their own at the top of the table after four games.
Admittedly they have played one more game than six of the chasing pack but, ominously for the rivals to their crown, after a false start last season when they lost two of their first three games, they won 10 of their remaining 11 so are well used to leading from the front.
There is also a consistency about team selection as well, the 11 who started on Saturday against Civil Service North was the regular championship winning line-up from last season and in the only top flight game which was decided by the DLS method, they were always in control.
While most of the country was bathed in sunshine, the CSN innings was interrupted four times by rain and ultimately reduced to 43 overs. Thanks to a sixth wicket partnership of 73 between Graeme McCarter and Corin Goodall, they scored 90 in the last 15 overs to total 168-7, but because of the loss of early wickets Waringstown needed only two more to claim their third victory of the season.
An opening partnership of 98 between Adam Dennison (60) and James Hall (53) made light of that target and although both were dismissed in the space of six overs, they were so far ahead of the run rate that in-form James McCollum could face 27 balls for his 16 not out, which saw the champions home by six wickets with three overs to spare.
CIYMS, the team pipped to the title on run-rate last year, are expected to be Waringstown’s main challengers again this season and they proved that by inflicting a second defeat of the season on Instonians at Belmont.
Three wickets for Allen Coulter in his first 19 balls, including the returning James Shannon and skipper Andrew White, reduced Instonians to 6-3 and 12-4 and although young Ben Rose defiantly finished 32 not out, after facing 78 balls, wickets continued to fall around him and the visitors were bowled out the 44th over.
Unless Instonians could take early wickets, a total of 116 was never going to trouble CI and not only did the wickets not come but the runs flowed off the bat of John Matchett who hit 11 boundaries in his 50 which came off just 30 balls.
Golden arm Shannon took two wickets, including Matchett for 54, but that was the only joy for the Shaw’s Bridge side as CI cantered home in the 22nd over.
North Down and Carrickfergus are the other teams just one win behind Waringstown after victories on Saturday.
Both teams batted first and were grateful for the runs on the board as the scoreboard pressure told on their opponents.
Daniel Graham scored 95 for North Down in their total of 245-8 and Muckamore reached 162-2 in reply when professional Fahad Iqbal was dismissed by Martin Moreland. It sparked a quick collapse which saw six wickets fall for 26 runs and the visitors ended up batting out the overs to lose by 38 runs.
Carrickfergus posted 268-9, with Jack Burton making 83 and Matty McCord 57 off 60 balls at the end but Justin Rogers Armagh off to a fast start with 67 and at 132-2 at halfway were in pole position. But, here too, the wickets started to fall and they were still 33 runs short when bowled out with seven balls unused.
The second Schools Cup semi-final takes place this afternoon between Limavady Grammar and holders RBAI (1.30pm) with Methodist College awaiting the winners.
Methody booked their place in the June 15 final with a 17 runs win over BRA on Friday after scoring 151 for eight. James Hunter produced a player of the match performance with his side’s top score of 32 and then took three wickets, including Max Burton for 64, as BRA were bowled out for 134.