A busy week of local cricket started with some thrilling action in the Premier Division on Saturday as this most unpredictable of seasons shows little sign of letting up.
Champions Donemana started the day bottom of the table after three defeats in their first four games and the Holm side had to chase down 328 runs before climbing out of 8th place with a nail-biting victory over Fox Lodge.
Unbelievably, Ricky-Lee Dougherty’s men’s win sees them replaced at the foot of the division by their fellow pre-season title favourites Brigade, whose game at home to Ardmore was postponed after Friday’s heavy overnight rain got in under the Beechgrove covers.
Donemana’s win came courtesy of an excellent knock from Andy McBrine who hit 14 fours and 4 sixes in his 110. The Warriors skipper was warming up for a really busy schedule over the next week or so that sees him captain his Interprovincial side in both one-day and three-day action against high-flying Leinster Lightning next week.
“Scra” shared a game-changing partnership of 164 with Andrew Riddles who added 65 just as their side needed it after Jamie McIntyre (4-69) had struck early to give the visitors real hope. Again however, after both set batsmen were out, the Ballymagorry side were still in with a real shot of adding to their shock win against Brigade last time, before just being edged out at the very end.
The Foxies just couldn’t shift Dwayne McGerrigle whose unbeaten 30 finally got the hosts over the winning line with just two wickets in hand- the former Ireland International crashing the winning six-hit off the fourth ball of the final over to seal the win.
Fox Lodge’s imposing total was also built on an impressive stand- Cebo Tshiki and Brian Allen adding 163 for the fifth wicket which saw skipper Allen dismissed for 80 from just 45 balls (8 fours, 6 sixes) from the last delivery of the innings.
South African Tshiki hit 15 fours and 9 sixes in an impressive 139 not out but in the end, it just wasn’t to be enough.
Special mention here too for in-form McBrine; in the carnage of over 650 runs in the game the Ireland spinner boasted the remarkable figures of 4-13 from a quality 10 overs.
Last weekend the Holm side had themselves been on the receiving end of a sensational spell of bowling from Coleraine’s Graham Hume and this week it was Bready who struggled to cope with the rapid South African as the Bannsiders went to the top of the table.
Batting first, the Sandel Lodge outfit posted 216-7 from their 50 overs courtesy of a patient, but ultimately telling opening stand between Scott Campbell and Marcus Poskitt. Coleraine’s personnel changes have been well documented already this season, however there seems to have been little affect on results and performances as they continue to set the pace.
Campbell was unlucky to be out just one run short of his half century (6 fours) while his teenage team-mate continued to bely his age with another really pivotal effort in the grander scheme of things. The top order all chipped in to be fair- Poskitt’s 53 supported by Rishi Chopra who made 30, Varun Copra (26*) and Stephen Harper (24) as Coleraine asked the question of the league leaders.
Ryan Barr (2-38) bowled well for the Magheramason men, while Ian McGregor will have been delighted to have seen Davy Scanlon get a full 10 overs under his belt to claim 2-49.
Bready realised they would need to be careful with Coleraine’s new-ball threat and Hume didn’t leave them wondering. In a similar spell to the one in Tyrone last weekend he bowled 6 overs for just 3 runs- picking up the big wicket of David Rankin on the way.
Testimony to how much Coleraine were in charge, Hume wasn’t asked to bowl again as Stephen Hutchinson (4-26) and then Varun Chopra (who only bowled 15 balls in total to finish with 4-3) saw the visitors dismissed for just 80.
There is no doubt at all that Donemana will still have gone to Sandel Lodge yesterday (Sunday) as red-hot favourites to beat Campbell’s side and book a semi-final place in this year’s senior cup. Little doubt either however that it would have been a much more focused journey than the holders may have been planning a couple of weeks ago.
In the Premier Division’s remaining game, Strabane recorded something of a minor surprise (if there is to be such a thing this season) as they accounted for Eglinton. The Red Caps really do look to have as good a side as they have had in a while this season but probably haven’t been getting home in matches- most notably that slip-up on the north coast.
Both sides were missing their talisman for this one- Stuart Thompson on International duty for the villagers while Peter Gillespie was accompanying sibling Michael on a 50th birthday trip to Spain. Peter’s place was however taken by another of the clan- Mark returning to the first team at Strabane for the first time in several years, and, wouldn’t you know it, playing a role in a crucial win.
A 165-run second wicket partnership between Ross Allen (83) and Mike Erlank (74) seemed to have the visitors on easy street before Ryan Gallagher took a hand in proceedings- dismissing both of them and then Karl O’Doherty in successive deliveries to grab himself a hat-trick.
After that the newly-promoted side kept things at arm’s length with Khushpal Singh (3-35) helping Gallagher restrict Eglinton to 233-7.
The home side’s reply was dictated by Chathura Peiris- the Sri Lankan now showing the kind of quality his new club hoped he would as he made an excellent unbeaten 104 (5 fours, 5 sixes). Aaron Gillespie (35) provided early support but having lost a flurry of wickets they were still 64 runs short when the sixth went down.
Step forward Mark Gillespie- no bad occasional resource for any team to have- and with an unbeaten 35 he kept Peiris company until Strabane got the job done.
This was a huge victory for Tommy Barr’s men, there is no doubt at all about that.
And nothing that happened on Saturday has suggested that this season won’t be the most difficult to unravel in many years.