After Monday’s tussle in CIYMS, it was nice for the Southern XI to escape busy Belfast for today’s encounter in the idyllic village of Muckamore. Their win against the much fancied NCU had left the Southerners quietly confident of making it three from three against an NWCU side who had yet to put a win on the board.

The ground was once again set up for an enticing game of cricket. The wicket was the same one used for yesterday’s game (where Leinster had chased down 198), so deterioration was again likely to be a factor in the second innings. Unfortunately for the Southern XI, NWCU won the toss and decided to have a bat. By 11am it was already 22 degrees at the ground and rising, a difficult prospect for any fielding side.

Jones and MacNulty opened the bowling for the second day running and kept the scoring low from the offset. The first five overs progressed without incident before Jones (1-29) beat Poskitt for pace to clip his off-stump, giving the Southern XI an early breakthrough. Things could have improved further had a close LBW shout a couple of overs later from the same bowler but the umpire adjudicating that it was missing leg, just.

At 43-1 off 10, the NWCU were starting to look settled and so Jones turned to spin. Once again, they repaid their captain’s trust. Carey struck first, having Logue caught behind, before having another tough chance put down at slip a couple of overs later. Then Walsh (3-27) picked up three wickets in 2 overs to leave the middle overs in tatters. His first, an LBW appeal left the NWCU batsman fuming. However, the NWCU could have no complaints with the clean bowled and c&b he followed that up with. From the other end, McDonnell (2-24) bowled very accurately to pick up Logue & McFaul, which left the NWCU in serious trouble at 99-7. They had lost 6-26 in 15 overs. Woods Oliver was then brought into the attack and after being hit for sweet four by Mills early on, gained revenge by having him well caught at deep mid-wicket. Carey (2-29) was then brought back on and after two catches went down in his first over, he had Killen well stumped. Woods Oliver (2-20) then finished the innings off by clean bowling Knight. 157 all out looked a little below par, but with the four spinners all gaining assistance from the pitch, a good batting performance would be needed to see the Southern XI home.

For the second day running Black & McDonough opened up for the Southern XI requiring just over 3 runs an over for victory. The NWCU showed their intent early by opening with their quick stroke bowler McFaul and with spin. After taking a couple of quiet overs to see how the pitch was behaving, the Southern duo began to take control. Both batsman drove beautifully through the cover region while they also were not afraid to hit over the top when the loose ball came. The highlight of their partnership was however, the ease at which both men found gaps for ones and twos. It was as if they had been running between the wickets together for years (as it turned out they had opened for their club team together for nearly 10 years!).

Where the Southern XI spinners provided control and wickets, the NWCU spinners struggled. They bowled far too many short balls which were dispatched to the fence. The NWCU also didn’t help their case by dropping at least 3 good chances, one of which went for four and another which went for six. The Southern XI pair scored at 5 runs an over for most of their innings and only slowed as they both approached their half-centuries. MacDonough (66*, 8 fours & 1 six) got their first, closely followed by Black (66, 8 fours, & 2 sixes). Both men freed their arms after passing their milestones with Black’s big six straight back over the bowlers head the pick of the shots. Soon after, he was out, bowled by McFaul (2-37) which ended a superb partnership on 139. Karpe then came and went for 3, bounced out of it by McFaul before it was left to captain Jones to smash two boundaries over mid-wicket and mid-on to win the match. McDonough finishing not out on 66.

It was another excellent team performance from the Southern XI outfit. With 3 wins from 3, they remain top of the table, with Leinster 2/3 just behind them. A big game awaits on Thursday as the two sides meet in a T20 match in Campbell College. But today was another game for the Southern XI team and coaches to savour. Their spinners and top order kept their form from yesterday and showed that they will be a tough side to beat in any format.