Marc Ellison was to the fore as Northern Knights kick-started their interpro campaign with a resounding win over NW Warriors.
The CSNI opener mastered tricky conditions early on, to make his highest List-A score of 87.
“There was obviously a lot of rain about over the weekend which led to the delays. What we found out early on was the middle of the wicket was much wetter than the ends so that meant the shorter balls really stuck in the wicket with tennis ball bounce. The full to half-volley lengths actually came through pretty well.
“Having said that the ball was still seaming a bit into the second innings. The smart thing our bowlers did was they learned from the first innings and bowled beautifully. The Warriors gave us plenty of scoring opportunities and certainly gave us plenty of width. Our bowlers put the ball in the right areas and put the Warriors under pressure.”
Few cricketers in the country work or think harder about their game than Ellison, and with him being particularly strong off the back-foot, he was glad that the Warriors attack played to his strengths.
“Back foot play has been my strong point the last 18 months or so, and thankfully the Warriors gave me plenty of opportunities to cut and pull which I took advantage of. I have been working on my front foot play and there were a few times that the ball seamed around when they hit the right lengths so it’s about having a bit of luck and not nicking those ones which I had today.
“Against the spinners it was a case of trying to manipulate the length as much as possible, getting well forward and going well back in the crease, trying to upset their lengths. We tried to rotate the strike as much as possible, taking little risks, and the plan was for the top four to take the innings as deep as possible and lay the platform for the rest.
“It worked perfectly today and the momentum just increased throughout our innings. It was great to watch ‘Sparky’ (Mark Adair) strike the ball so cleanly from ball one, and he really got things going, with Harry Tector and Neil Rock keeping it going right to the end which gave us a very competitive total to defend.”
Ellison himself was gutted to miss out on a landmark century, having been dismissed for 87.
“Obviously I’m disappointed to miss out on the hundred. I see that as my role as an opener to make 100 plus. Ideally if one player in the top order makes a significant score, then it lays that platform for the rest to bat around and rotate the strike. It helps keep things ticking along rather than when you get two new men in and it can change quickly.
“My aim was to make the hundred, but I just didn’t execute the pull shot in the final few overs to get the ball in the area I wanted and it was a very good catch low down by Craig Young. While I didn’t get the ton, we got the win.”
The 32 year-old shared the match defining partnership with Knights skipper Gary Wilson. The pair will both be plying their trade with CSNI at Stormont this summer. What was it like batting with the experienced Irish international?
“I’ve batted with Gary a few times in club cricket so it’s always nice to have his reassuring presence out there with all his nous and experience. He’s played all over the word in different conditions. I always have my own thoughts on how things are progressing, so it’s always good to get his reassurance or maybe he’ll come up with a different idea and we bounce off each other.
"He brings great clarity and what I really like is that he rotates the strike brilliantly and makes it all look so simple. I hope it’s the start of many partnerships with the Knights and CSNI this year.”
The Knights really piled on the runs in the final few overs as 116 came off the last nine overs, as Ellison, Adair, Tector and Rock dismantled the much vaunted Warriors attack which featured five internationals. “
It really was a strong finish to the innings. When you’re setting a total you just never know how many is going to be enough. There was a strong breeze blowing, around 40 km/ph and when you’re hitting short boundaries with it behind you it really makes a big difference. Mark Adair aka “Big Dog’ pulled Stuart Thompson over midwicket for six first ball and that got him going, which was great to watch from the other end. If he had his last ball for six rather than being caught on the boundary ot would have been in the top three quickest List-A half centuries so it goes to show just how good that innings was.
“I thought Harry Tector and ‘Pebbles’ (Neil Rock) did fantastically well to keep that going at the end. Sometimes it’s difficult to do it straight away in that situation but the two young lads really clicked immediately. It just goes to show how well these guys are training and preparing for these type of opportunities and take them with both hands when they arise.”
The Knights attack ensured that the Warriors chase never got going, and Ellison was quick to praise their efforts.
“Graeme McCarter and Mark Adair did a great job up front, with ‘Grum’ bowling into that aforementioned wind, which wasn’t enjoyable for anybody today. He did a massive job for us today and while he mightn’t have got the rewards he deserved, it was still a key spell. Mark Adair bowled beautifully, with nice shape. He got the early wicket and that set us up, with him getting three in total.
“After that scoreboard pressure told, and Harry Tector was able to snaffle and burgle a few wickets, ending up with a five-for. He bowled well, hitting good lengths and getting a little bit of turn. It was fantastic to see him getting his maiden List-A five wicket haul and great to see the youngster doing so well.”
There is no time to rest on their laurels as the Knights face defending champions Leinster Lightning today (Thurs), and Ellison acknowledges they will have to be at their best against the Dubliners.
“They are traditionally the team to beat in the interpros and it’s certainly a game we are looking forward to. Taking the momentum from the win against the Warriors into the clash will be crucial, and hopefully we can back up a performance like that with another one. It’s a good opportunity for us as we look to move forward and push our title aspirations. They watched a good part of our match so they will have a good understanding of what worked and didn’t work.
“We will be looking to make it two wins from two and to leave La Manga top of the table would be our aim. There was a bit of turn today so we opt to bring in another spinner. The coach and the captain have plenty of options so it’ll be interesting to see which weapons in our arsenal they utilise.”
The Knights game with Lightning gets underway at 10:45 local time (9:45 BST).