Ian Calender (Belfast Telegraph)
A week before the launch of the lucrative Euro T20 Slam, Mark Adair staked an early claim for a contract with a whirlwind 44 from 15 balls as Northern Knights eased to a 117 runs victory over North West Warriors in this season’s inter-provincial opener in windy La Manga.
Only one batsman had crashed a List A half-century quicker than 16 balls but Adair, still uncapped by Ireland, would have matched that only for a superb low catch at deep mid-wicket by Graham Kennedy.
The former Warwickshire professional hit six sixes - including three off Stuart Thompson and two off Boyd Rankin – as Knights scored 128 off the last 10 overs to finish on 265-6 in just 36 overs, the game reduced by a delayed start and, bizarrely, by a further four overs after a 25 minutes hold-up when the sightscreen sheet was blown down.
After two days and three hours without cricket while the La Manga pitch dried out from a weekend of heavy rain, it looked as if this inaugural Spanish venture was jinked but it has already served its purpose by giving the Ireland selectors food for thought ahead of next week’s one-day international against England and the Tri-series against West Indies and Bangladesh which follows immediately.
The positives were a return to action – and form – for Gary Wilson who reported ‘no problem’ after 87 minutes batting for the first time since his eye operation and four wickets for Stuart Thompson, albeit at seven runs an over, although the boundaries are on the small side here and only Graeme Kennedy, as the least experienced pace bowler given only five overs, had a better economy rate.
The downside was another early dismissal for Ireland captain William Porterfield, after a disappointing series against Afghanistan and no wickets for Warriors skipper Andy McBrine and Rankin.
Indeed, after Adair had followed up his batting heroics with three wickets in his first 20 balls, the Warriors collapsed to 78-9 and only a record 10th wicket partnership of 69 between Andy Britton – surely the best No 10 around – and Craig Young took the North West side past their previous low total and avoided their heaviest defeat.
Two others are sure to have got a mention at tonight's selection meeting; Harry Tector scored 36 not out from 14 balls and took five wickets, while Mark Ellison was the game’s top scorer with 87 from 91 balls (12 fours and two sixes) as the Civil Service North opener picked up where he left off last season.