Nail-Biting Finish to Memorable U17 Interprovincials
In the first T20 match, the Southern XI faced up against Leinster, with the Southern XI having won the corresponding 50 over match between the sides a couple of weeks ago. Having won the toss and decided to bat, Leinster showed their intent from the off. Stiles hit a big straight six in the first over. Leinster quickly progressed to 29-0 inside 3 overs, the breakthrough only arriving through Walsh, who had Thompson out LBW.
This only brought Lynch to the crease and it was his partnership with Stiles which put the Southern XI to the sword. They added 129 together with all the bowlers taking a hit. Some missed half chances and poor ground fielding also did not help the Southern XI cause. The spinners found it especially tough, not helped by the 40m straight boundary on both sides. Stiles was eventually out for 84 off 65 balls (8 fours & 4 sixes) to MacNulty. However, Lynch continued to hit out and brought up his half-century with a six over long on. Jones took 2 wickets in the last over to keep Leinster to 167-4. Lynch not out 57 off 36 balls (7 fours, 1 six). A big total, but one that was definitely in reach if Southern XI batted well due to the extremely short straight boundaries.
The Southern XIís chase was made even harder when Black was out early. However, the ensuing partnership between Archer & Jones gave them some hope. After a watchful beginning, they both took it to the Leinster bowlers, with Jonesís reverse sweep being especially productive. However, when Jones was out for 38 off 24 (6 fours & 1 six) & Archer 29 off 32 (4 fours & 1 six) the innings began to fold. The Southern XI clearly struggled against the extra pace Leinster were able to produce through Nulty (4-2-11-2). Askew, Carey & MacNulty all cleared the ropes late on, however the Southern XI never got close. They finished their 20 overs on 131-8. Leinster the winners by 36 runs.
Unfortunately for the Southern XI, they didnít have much time to reflect on the match as their second T20 of the day was against the NCU that afternoon. The Southern XI won the toss and Jones decided to bowl again. As in the 50 over match between the sides, the NCU opening pair once again got them off to a quick start before Mackay clean bowled Burton to leave them 29-1. When Warke was out to Carey in the next over, the Southern XI felt they had an opening. However, Metcalfe continued to attack until he was well stumped off McDonnell for 48 (5 fours & 2 sixes). With some late hitting by Hunterís 36* (3 fours & 2 sixes) and wickets for Collins & Jones, the NCU finished on 151-5. Again, a good total, but one that was reachable with a good Southern XI batting performance.
In truth, the Southern XI batting unit never got going in the chase. They fell to 36-5 (of which Jones scored 26 (5 fours)) and from then on, the result was never in doubt. The Southern XI never gave up however and 27 (12 balls) from Askew & 25 from Collins as well as late cameos from McDonough & Carey brought the Southern XI up to a respectable 123 all out. A loss by 28 runs.
After two losses in the day, the Southern XI surely felt their chances to win the inter-pros were finished. However, in a big turn of events the NWCU beat Leinster in their 2nd T20 match to leave the Southern XI, NCU & LCU all tied on 3 wins each with one game to go. Net run rate had to be calculated and the Southern XI would begin the final day with a slight lead over the other two teams. However, with the possible range of results in T20 matches, all three teams were well in the hunt. On Friday, the Southern XI would face off against the NWCU in Carrickfergus, while Leinster and the NCU would face off in the other match in Campbell college.
The Southern XI were at a disadvantage from the outset when Jones and Askew were unavailable for the last match, and so the Southern XI had only 11 to choose from. Carey took over the captaincy reigns and decided to bat on winning the toss. It was the first wicket of the week which looked green and sticky, so neither side were sure what a good score would be. The boundaries were also more regulation sized compared to the previous day and so hopefully would allow spinners to play more of a part than they did in Campbell college. The Southern XI got off a to good start as the NWCU bowled at least 5 wides in the first 2 overs. The odd boundary also kept the score ticking along. After 6 overs, the Southern XI were 36-1 with Black 17* well positioned to set the NWCU a big score. However, from that point on the NWCU bowlers took complete control.
The ball started to bounce variably and seam off the pitch. Within a few overs the Southern XI were 50-7 and seemingly going nowhere. The run rate dropped and every single was a challenge. The shining light for the Southern XI was Archer, who batted through as many partners fell around him. He made 21 off 42, but more importantly kept the NWCU in the field longer and allowed the Southern XI score to keep ticking. He was 9th man out for 69 and soon after the team was all out for 76 in 19 overs. The lowest total by any team this week.
News then came through of the NCU making 179 against Leinster and any thoughts of winning the title were distant.
77 to win did not look challenging for the NWCU, but it was important that they attacked it with positive intent as the longer they kept the Southern XI in the game, the more the pressure on them would build. MacNulty opened the bowling and gave the Southern XI hope with a wicket in the first over. Mackay also opened from the other end and bowled his four overs straight through impeccably, picking up the second wicket in the process while only conceding 14 runs. Carey rotated his bowlers cleverly and never allowed the NWCU to get far above the rate. After 10 overs of the chase the NWCU were only 41-2, still requiring 37. It was now that Carey played his trump card and brought on the spinners. He bowled the well-set Logue to give the NWCU more nerves. However, the game was still the NWCUís to lose with captain Magee still there on 20* and less than 4 runs an over needed to win the game (17 runs required off 5 overs). However the game opened up in the 16th over.
Carey bowled a double wicket maiden including Magee, to finish with superb figures of 4-1-11-3. Then Walsh bowled a wicket maiden from the other end (2-1-4-1) to leave the NWCU 64-6. They required 13 more with two overs from McDonnell and one from MacNulty to face. McDonnell then bowled the 7th wicket in the 18th over and after a fantastic 19th over from MacNulty (conceding just the 3), the Southern XI had 4 to defend off the last over. Carey had rotated his bowlers well to leave McDonnell this over. It started dot, single before a wicket left the NWCU requiring 3 off 3 balls. Another dot piled on the pressure before a single left the NWCU requiring 2 off 1 ball to win. A single would have tied the scores leading to a North West victory due to less wickets lost. McDonnell was too good for the batsman however and his wild swing missed before the keeper kept his head to take the bails off and preventing a bye being ran.
The Southern XI had won by 1 run, with McDonnell finishing with 4-0-11-2. The crucial overs of spin for the Southern XI ended with the outstanding figures of 10-2-26-6 in a T20 match (that too from over 9 to 20, with the 19th over being the only over of seam bowled in that period). An amazing finish for all who were lucky enough to be there was epitomized by the celebrations of the players. They had won the closest and most exciting match of the entire week in a magnificent team effort.
Word then came through that NCU had beaten Leinster by 43 runs and so now the Southern XI waited to see where they would finish on run rate - could the improbable have happened? Sadly not. The NCU were deemed the winners by the narrowest of margins of 0.06 on NRR. The Southern XI were the runners up. A fantastic week for the Southern XI none the less and one that they should be immensely proud of.