With just six league games to go it is Bready who are in the driving seat as this season’s title race heads towards what should now be a really thrilling conclusion. The Magheramason outfit lead the charge with a decent advantage after another maximum bonus-point win, this one just down the A5 at neighbouring Fox Lodge.

Batting first the visitors made a slow but sure start- David Rankin (39), Andrew Austin (26) and Marc McCloskey (24) all getting in, before Irosh Samarasooriya and Craig Young upped the ante. A good effort with the ball from the home side’s bowlers managed to keep Bready at arm’s length with Jamie McIntyre and Gareth Heywood keeping it to around 4 an over for the first half of the innings. Lee Finlay (2-26) fared best in the wickets column before Samarasooriya and Young piled on the pressure in the last third.

Just 123 runs came in those first 35 overs, but the two batsmen plundered a further 127 from the last 15- the Sri Lankan with 7 fours and 4 sixes in his even-time 90 not out while Ireland International Young added 2 fours and 3 sixes in a double-quick unbeaten 51. Their 100-run stand saw the leaders close on a commanding 250-4 and it proved to be plenty.

Without their skipper, Brian Allen, the Foxies’ batting looked light, and but for a patient and defiant 47 not out from opener Barry Scott this could have been over very early. Jamie McIntyre’s 21 was the only other contribution of note as the Ballymagorry boys were bowled out for 136- Gregory McFaul with superb figures of 4-7 and Andy Lucas 3-40 doing most of the damage.

Davy Scanlon’s men didn’t really have to be at their best to record their sixth win from 8 outings and in this sort of form they must surely now fancy their chances of going deep in the title race. For their part, Fox Lodge have done well to pick up the points they have in the first half of the season, however they are still some way from the edge of the woods just yet.

Coleraine stay second in the table despite losing out narrowly at home to Brigade. The visitors found themselves in the very strange situation of being bottom of the table at the half-way stage of the season, however they started a crucial weekend in their league campaign with a gritty win.

The Bannsiders struggled badly for runs as they batted first- skipper Scott Campbell once again leading by example as he made an ultra-patient 59 (122 balls-7 fours and a six). Overseas man Graham Hume added an equally determined 35 (4 fours) in what was by and large a fairly subdued 166-7 in 50 overs.

Jonny Robinson (3-41) was the most successful of the Waterside team’s bowling although Andy Britton (2-26 from 10) was probably the pick of them.

Iftikhar Hussain anchored Brigade’s reply as he made 54 (9 fours) but once again, as has been the case for large parts of the season, their batting failed to fire. Niall McDonnell’s 26 was a help in the middle and it needed another telling effort from skipper Britton (26 not out) to get the Beechgrove side over the line with a quickly-diminishing 2 wickets to spare.

Hume (4-29) was again superb with the ball while Campbell weighed in with 2-30 from his full 10, however as it was, Coleraine’s stop-start effort with the bat was to prove their undoing.

Strabane leap-frogged Fox Lodge into the top half of the table after Tommy Barr’s men posted a vital win at Ardmore. There was no problem with runs here- Aaron Gillespie continuing his highly prolific summer as he made a superb 100 (12 fours and 3 sixes) to build on the Red Caps’ solid foundation.

Peter Gillespie has returned to the top of the Tyrone team’s order to try and give them some much-needed impetus there and while it is a gamble to leave the middle a little exposed, it may well be a decent ploy, especially when Strabane bat first.

The former Ireland International made 91 (13 fours and a six) and those two efforts, coupled with cameos from Rhys Logue (22) and Chathura Peiris (21) helped the 2014 champions to an impressive 277-5 from their 50 overs. Stevie Dunn (2-34) was best with the ball for an Ardmore outfit, who then struggled to land a blow as they took their turn with the bat.

New overseas man Azeem Ghumman looked decent in his 33-ball 32 (4 fours and a six), but that apart, Decker Curry’s 22, and a few blows from Paul McDowell and skipper Gary Neely was pretty much it for the hosts.
Khushpal Singh (5-50) was architect-in-chief of Ardmore’s downfall although Ryan Gallagher (2-29) and Peiris (2-35) provided decent support as Strabane won by 111 runs.

Few would have given Strabane, nor indeed Fox Lodge much chance of avoiding a relegation scrap before the season started, however both are now possibly just a win away from doing just that.

Ardmore’s game at Beechgrove yesterday (Sunday) now takes on real significance for Neely’s team. If they can squeeze out a win of some description in that, the Bleachgreen boys will be right back in the hunt, however anything else will leave them needing some turnaround in their remaining six games.

Saturday’s final Premiership game muddied the waters still further as cup finalists Eglinton got the better of reigning champions Donemana. The Holm side remain in third place but have now lost half of their league games in a very ordinary season by their standards.

An excellent effort with the bat from Stuart Thompson’s team saw them amass 256-7 from their 50 overs; Mike Erlank showing plenty of quality in his 86 (9 fours) while Andy Millar (40) and Andy Pierce (23) provided the early support.

An excellent unbeaten 43 from Karl O’Doherty (5 fours and a six) gave the innings some real late momentum while William McClintock (3-46) and Jordan McGonigle (2-36) worked hard for the visitors with the ball.

Donemana’s response was competitive but ultimately unthreatening- Kyle Dougherty’s 46 the best of it accompanied by cameos from Mal Cooray (34), William McClintock (31), Jamie Huey (25), and Wille McBrine (24*). They were always in touch to be fair, but finally dismissed for 225 as Eglinton began their warm-up for this month’s senior cup final with an impressive win.