Andrew Balbirnie warmed up for next week’s one-day international against England with his second century for Leinster Lightning as the holders completed a comfortable six-wicket victory over Northern Knights in their opening Interprovincial Cup match of the season.

Balbirnie (right) was out 20 runs short of victory for a fluent 125 but Kevin O’Brien, with whom he put on 90 in just 10 overs, saw his side home, a run short of his own half-century from just 33 balls.

It was Lightning’s 17th consecutive victory in the competition which they have won for the last five years and despite conceding 290, their highest total, they had 19 balls to spare on an excellent batting track in La Manga.

O’Brien was badly dropped by Marc Ellison on the square leg boundary on seven but with Simi Singh finishing the job and George Dockrell padded up, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference.

The experienced Lightning internationals could be joined in next week’s squad by team-mate Lorcan Tucker, who outscored Balbirnie in a stand of 163 — and at a quicker rate.
He hit eight fours and three sixes in his 81, from 70 balls, as the Dubliners made light of the early loss of Jack Tector and Stephen Doheny.

Tucker gave a difficult chance on 21 but, at full stretch, Shane Getkate failed to hold on.

For the second day in a row, Ellison top scored for Knights, but for the second day in a row he failed to get out of the 80s and the second day in a row to a fine low catch, this time at fine leg off Barry McCarthy.

James Shannon's innings was cut short by an lbw decision from Alan Neill but Harry Tector’s name was also sure to have been discussed at length at last night’s Ireland selection meeting after adding 57 to his whirlwind 36 against the North West Warriors, while Mark Adair played as if his wicket on Wednesday never happened.

After hitting six maximums 24 hours earlier, he hit his first two balls from Peter Chase over the boundary and added two more in the same over.

To his credit, the Ireland paceman came back in the next over and with a full delivery bowled the CIYMS all-rounder for 31; he had faced just 12 deliveries.

Adair is set to be a huge player for club, province and possibly country before the year is out.