THE class rose to the surface on the final day of Ireland’s cricketing summer as Leinster Lightning retained the inter-provincial Cup.

The best team on paper came good when it mattered to beat North West Warriors by 58 runs in the winner-take-all shoot-out for the final prize of the season. But the man of the match, if there had been one, would surely have been on the losing side.

Brigade captain Andy Britton returned to the Warriors side and after 6.2 overs had figures of 5-11, with his all-star list of victims including Andrew Balbirnie, John Anderson, Simi Singh and Kevin O’Brien.
When he took his fifth wicket in the 14th over, Lightning were reeling at 34-5 but, proving why they have won all five previous 50-over titles, they finished their innings on an imposing 253-8.

Gareth Delany, the one change to the Lightning side which played in the three-day Championship game against Northern Knights last week, came in and top scored with an out-of-character but so valuable 67 from 109 balls and after George Dockrell had chipped in with 39, Lorcan Tucker and Tyrone Kane added 103 for the eighth wicket to put Lightning in control at halfway.

But while William Porterfield was at the crease, Warriors were always in the game. Unfortunately for the visitors, the Ireland one-day captain’s innings was ended on 71 and the strength in depth of batting of the two teams remains poles apart.

Skipper Andy McBrine, who held himself back to No 7, was unbeaten on 30 and still fancied his chances of scoring 59 from the last eight overs with only Craig Young for company – the No 11 having already hit two fours and a six off George Dockrell.

But while Young looked for a single off the first ball of the over, McBrine didn’t move and O’Brien, on his follow-through picked up the ball and threw down the stumps to end the match and Warriors hopes of a second trophy to crown their best ever inter-provincial season.

It was O’Brien’s who had wrecked Warriors hopes, when they were 174-6, with a triple wicket maiden, completing a remarkable comeback which had seen his first two overs – albeit into the wind – disappear for 28 runs. Thanks to a change of ends, he finished with 3-34 from 5.1 overs and more than make up for his earlier disappointment with the bat.

But all the credit for Lightning’s early demise must go to Britton, whose final figures of 5-23 are the second best in the competition, pipped only by Dockrell’s 5-21 against the Knights at Milverton in June.
It took Britton, also bowling into the wind, three overs to warm-up but his next 20 balls brought five wickets for two runs. His first scalp was Jack Tector, bowled by a nip backer and two balls later the ball went the other way to take the outside edge of Balbirnie’s bat.

Two more wickets followed in his next over, Anderson, another catch behind for Niall O’Brien and then Singh was palpably leg before. He guaranteed himself the match ball with the wicket of Kevin O’Brien, brilliantly caught one-handed, low at cover by Stuart Thompson.

Obviously tiring towards the end of his spell, he failed to become the first bowler to take six wickets in an inter-pro but the Warriors could not have wished for a better start. His colleagues could not follow his lead however and Young, Kennedy and Ross Allen had to be satisfied with just one wicket each while Thompson and McBrine aggregated 0-92 in their 17 overs.

But then only one inter-provincial team can have Dockrell, Tucker and Kane coming in at seven, eight and nine and their 142 runs from 143 balls was the difference between the sides – and the final table never lies.

SEVEN Ireland players are in this afternoon’s draft for the Afghanistan Premier League to be played in the UAE from October 5-21.
Kevin O’Brien, Paul Stirling, George Dockrell, Gary Wilson, George Dockrell, William Porterfield and Boyd Rankin have all put their names forward for the new Full Member’s inaugural T20 franchise tournament