LISBURN are in pole position for an immediate return to the Premier League. After losing two of their first three Robinson Services Section One games they have won 10 in a row to open up an eight points lead.
Not every club in the second tier of NCU cricket wants to be promoted – and it’s fair to say that many in the Lisburn club were in that camp at the start of the season. But as they have serenely seen off all comers in the last two months more and more players believe they are ready to give it another go in the top flight.
The latest win, on Sunday against Downpatrick – the last team to beat them in the league – proved their fighting qualities as the visitors, chasing 183 for victory were 121-4 with 20 overs remaining.
But Michael Glass and Mark Berry took wickets in successive overs to haul Lisburn back into contention but with 19 balls left Downpatrick needed just eight to win and still with three wickets left.
Five balls later, it was all over and Lisburn had won by five runs with Richard McConkey taking the last two wickets in successive balls, having earlier hit the last ball for six – which in the end proved the difference between the teams.
The major failing of the Wallace Park side – and one that must be cured if they go on to claim promotion – is the loss of early wickets. In at least half of their games, Lisburn have been 50-5 and if that happens in the Premier League next year that will be 80 all out.
That pattern continued last weekend. Against Downpatrick, they slumped to 76-6 and totalled 182-9 thanks to Neil Kilpatrick who top scored from No 10 with 41 not out and the previous day, against Laurelvale, 86-6 was turned into 192-9 with Mark Berry (75) Glenn Halliday (38) sharing a seventh wicket stand of 68.
In Section Two, the top two have been in a class of their own and the meeting between Templepatrick and Cliftonville Academy on Sunday August 19 will probably decide the title.
Last Saturday, it was first blood to Templepatrick, after their GMcG Junior Cup final victory by 46 runs with Michael Stewart named man of the match for his unbeaten 57 which gave the Ballyclare-based side a total of 225-8, when for much of the innings 200 was the best they could have hoped for.
Cliftonville Academy got the perfect start with 49 from the first five overs but the Templepatrick slow bowlers gained control and although Davy Menaul top scored with 46, he used up 74 balls and the runs were not coming at the other end either.
Indeed, with 15 overs left, Cliftonville Academy needed 110 with six wickets left which was game on’. But, amazingly, despite losing only one wicket, five overs later they still needed 100 and from there was only one winner.
This Saturday it is Cliftonville Academy II who have the chance to lift a trophy when they face Donaghcloney Mill II in the Intermediate Cup final at Upritchard Park, the teams’ first meeting of the season