THE overnight rain persuaded Greg Thompson to bowl first in the Challenge Cup final and, by accident, went a long way to putting a fifth trophy in the Waringstown pavilion.
Already holders of the Premier League, Irish Cup, Ulster Cup and the NCU Twenty20 – a trophy they retained yesterday – the Challenge Cup had been missing from The Lawn for five years, but Friday’s six wickets triumph over Civil Service North put that right and confirmed their superiority across every format.
But Thompson admitted afterwards that his plan the previous night had been to bat first if he won the toss.
“I would have batted if it had have been dry, but the covers were still on half an hour before the start. I feel we are team who can chase as well as we can set and we did that in the semi-final when we chased down CI ‘s 290 and this time we chased down something similar (286) a bit more comfortably.”
They actually had four and a half overs to spare and the main reason was Adam Dennison’s personal best score– and the highest in a 50-over final - of 145 not out which had been set three hours early by Mark Ellison’s 139 not out.
It was the first time two centuries had been scored in the final since 1991 and Ellison was the first person to bat through a completed innings since Lisburn’s Tom McCloy 59 years ago.
For Civil Service North, the best news came on Saturday when Graeme McCarter sent a tweet from his hospital bed with his thumbs up and the message “A big thanks to everyone who's been in touch with messages of support. Feeling a lot better today and slowly on the mend.”
The Ireland international – who last played in 2015 – had said he would be able to get through the match and was chosen ahead of Alan Blain in the final 11 because he was the better batsman.
But with Ellison batting through the innings and losing only four partners, McCarter wasn’t required to bat. He shared the new ball with Andre Malan but after his first ball he could barely get back to his mark and it was obvious to everyone that he wasn’t well.
He trudged off the ground after his first over and Thompson agreed to CSN replacing him with their 12th man, Corin Goodall; McCarter left the ground immediately afterwards.
“Graeme has been so good to us over the years that I was going to let him make the decision and him alone,” said skipper James Kennedy, “and he told me he would be fine, so you have to credit him with the bottle to go out and try. As the day progressed he got worse and worse and it was the right decision to go and get the right care which thankfully he has and we wish him a speedy recovery.”
Kennedy described Ellison’s knock as “sensational” and having been put into bat, would have taken 285 before a ball was bowled.
“But in a great facility like this you probably needed 300-320. If we’d bowled well and run our luck and held on to a couple of tough, tough opportunities we might have had a chance but James McCollum and Denny put on a great partnership and it’s very hard to fight back after that,” he added.