VILLAGERS DOWNED IN BATTLE OF BRITTON

Andy Britton was the toast of Beechgrove on Saturday night after the Brigade skipper steered his side to a 94-run victory in this year’s senior cup.

On a rain-affected second day the Waterside men looked to have blown a healthy first innings lead as Jamie Millar and Stuart Thompson had Eglinton at 149-3 chasing 279 to land a highly unlikely victory.

Britton however then brought himself into the attack and claimed stunning figures of 7-24 to turn the match on its head and send the cup back to the Limavady Road for the first time in 8 years.

In fairness, Brigade dominated Day 1 despite a good start from the villagers’ strike bowlers after they had won the toss and opted to field first. Gareth McKeegan, who only last weekend had made that superb unbeaten 216 at Donemana, found the going tougher here as Stuart Thompson broke through his defences in the very first over.

The Eglinton skipper also picked up the wicket of Iftikhar Hussain for 7 soon after, before Ross Allen made it 31-3 when he had David Barr caught by Thompson for 16.

Britton’s men fought back after that as Johnny Thompson and Kyle Magee edged them back into the game. Young Magee has grown in stature as the season has progressed and although he made 25, they were probably worth more, as the pair added 86 for the 4th wicket.

Thompson made 57 (5 fours and a six) before being trapped dead in front by Ross Allen but by now the momentum was with the batting side. David Murdock replaced “JT” and the 27-year old pressed the accelerator right from the start- hitting 5 fours and 3 big sixes in an attacking 49.

Murdock was caught by Richard Wylie at point just short of a deserved half century, but the arrival of the Brigade captain did little to stem the flow of runs.

Niall McDonnell had also joined the fray by this stage and the former Strabane batsman proved a solid foil as his batting partner went on the attack. Britton faced just 26 balls as he finished on 50 not out, hitting 4 sixes and a four and that, coupled with McDonnell’s 28 allowed Brigade to make 261-7 from their 50 overs.

Allen (2-29), Thompson (2-58) and Andy Millar (2-75) were the pick of Eglinton’s bowling on a day when they failed to build on their solid start. The villagers needed a good start to their reply and they got one as Millar (27) and Allen (19) posted an opening stand of 46.

Unfortunately for them however they needed their overseas man, Mike Erlank to carry that on, but the South African had made just 4 when he was bowled by Mark Simpson. The Brigade bowler has been brought back in to the first XI recently and has obviously lost none of his edge as he picked up figures of 3-33 from his 10 overs.

Erlank’s dismissal heaped the pressure on Thompson to dig his side out of trouble and the Irish International responded with a 55-run partnership between himself and Jamie Millar. Thompson was looking good in his even-time 36 (6 fours), but the game looked to have turned when he was caught by Jonny Robinson off the bowling of Johnny Thompson.

The lower order struggled to cope with the bowling of Thompson and Robinson for Brigade however Millar was another matter. He managed to hold things together to some degree in terms of keeping his side in the game- Millar the last man out for a valiant 64 (8 fours).

A final total of 171 all out meant Brigade took a 90-run advantage into the second innings and with the forecast for rain on Day 2, players and umpires decided to play on. Just as they did at the start of the day, Eglinton again began well- very well in fact- as a late rally from the bowlers left things a bit more in the balance in terms of the game overall.

Thompson and Allen were the architects again as between them they accounted for Brigade’s top order, two wickets apiece for them left the Beechgrove side struggling a touch on 42-4 overnight- a lead of 132.

The sides took to the field on Saturday after a 45-minute weather delay and it was Brigade who seized the early initiative as Thompson and McDonnell built on their overnight score to add another 66 runs before the fifth wicket fell- Thompson giving the villagers his 3rd of the innings to be out for 47.

A flurry of late wickets in the hunt for quick runs saw Brigade close on 188-9, a lead of 278 overall with McDonnell completing his half century just before being dismissed by Andy Millar.

Thompson finished with 4-24 and Allen 2-20 from their respective 10 overs as Brigade went into the final session as clear favourites to lift the trophy.

By now, Eglinton knew they had one chance and they weren’t going to die wondering. They lost Andy Millar early in the piece, and despite Ross Allen making 25, he and Erlank, who had a fairly miserable weekend, fell in quick succession to leave them 40-3 and facing a heavy defeat.

And that’s when Thompson and Jamie Millar came together; batting sensibly as required and tucking into anything remotely loose. The pair had put on 109 when the villagers’ captain went to his 50 (3 fours) but from the very next delivery, Thompson picked out that man Britton and Brigade were back on top.

Millar (58) didn’t last long after that before Niall McDonnell gave his captain another victim with a superb catch and that was to be the last meaningful action in terms of a contest.

It was fitting that the man-of-the-match tidied things up to help himself to that “magnificent 7” as a final, which in the end defied the elements, ended with a 94-run verdict in Brigade’s favour.

Credit Eglinton for the fight they showed, especially in the second innings, but that first day deficit and a bang-in-form Andy Britton were the deciding factors.

At Magheramason, Brigade beat Eglinton by 94 runs

Brigade 261-7 (50 overs; J Thompson 57, A Britton 50*, D Murdock 49, K Magee 25, R Allen 2-29, S Thompson 2-58, A Millar 2-75) and 188-9 (50 overs; N McDonnell 50, J Thompson 47, A Britton 25, S Thompson 4-24, R Allen 2-20, L Ritchie 2-30)

Eglinton 171 all out (45.4 overs; J Millar 64, S Thompson 36, A Millar 27, M Simpson 3-33, J Thompson 3-37, J Robinson 2-32) and 184 all out (38.4 overs; J Millar 58, S Thompson 50, R Allen 25, A Britton 7-24, R Macbeth 2-41)

Man-of-the-match- Andy Britton