Rule Book needed at The Hills; heartbreak for Waringstown

Ian Callender, 10 June 2001

ALAN Waite, the Waringstown captain, summed it up best: "It's the first time I've ever left the field not knowing the result." The dramatic happenings at The Hills on Saturday night, when Waringstown lost their last wicket to the last ball of the match with the scores level, only to lose the game on scoring rate, may was surely not what the rule-makers had in mind when they tried to avoid a replay situation in the Royal Liver Irish Cup.

It was exactly 40 minutes after John Finlay was trapped leg before by Stephen Archer when ICU secretary John Wright confirmed the result by telephone to the umpires. Even the officials could not believe that a team should win a match because they were bowled out three balls earlier than their opponents but that is how Rule 5.22 separated the teams at Milverton.

Waringstown, like The Hills some three and a half hours ealier, had been all out for 160 but because the home side were dismissed in 48.3 overs and the NCU champions lost their last wicket at the end of the 49th over, the Dubliners had a superior scoring rate. At least some justice was done because the next criteria to separate the teams, the higher scoring side after 25 overs - much more logical - was also The Hills by 93 to 77 but the confusion over the result left everyone bewildered and dulled much of the excitement that had built up over the previous hour.

When the result was finally known, Waite had no complaints, admitting: "We made a pig's ear of it and deserved nothing more." It was an honest assessment - especially as it ended their interest in cup cricket for the season - but, for the second round in a row, the big match turned out to be less than top quality.

Three weeks earlier, Limavady, the North West champions, had been bowled out for 96 by Clontarf. Now, with more batting which would have been pooh-poohed in the Intermediate Cup, The Hills and Waringstown each did their best to lose the game. As one Waringstown veteran said after the match: None of the two teams deserved to win. The fact that neither did was probably a true reflection of the inadequacies of each side on the day and the dramatic finale was not enough to camaflauge a pig's ear of a match, to quote the Waringstown captain again. A victory target of just over three runs an over should have been a cakewalk for the visitors against what was an understrength side. Without both Mark and Luke Clinton The Hills went into the game two bowlers and two top order batsmen down and despite an opening partnership of 69, they lost their last nine wickets for 67 in 24 overs.

The Dubliners bowling at the start was, if anything, even worse than Waringstown's in the first quarter of the match, but Andrew Cousins became the latest batsman to get himself out and then, shock-horror, Garfield Harrison was dismissed without scoring, bowled by a beauty from Matt Dwyer. Then came one of the most remarkable partnerships anyone present will ever see. It lasted just 13 overs with an unexceptional 37 runs but Michael Scott and Jonathan Bushe had a total of seven lives. Four times in eight balls Scott could have been out but when the ball went in the air the fielders put down the catch or the wicket-keeper misssed the stumping or, on one occasion, the umpire, somehow, did not give a run-out. It just had to be seen to be believed. Still, Waringstown were determined to give The Hills a chance and Declan Moore, at his third attempt, finally held a catch either side off his brother, Brendan, dismissing Scott and Alan Waite, in the space of two overs and suddenly Waringstown were 105 for six.

The best batting of the match followed as Peter Hanna and Ian Morrison then added 45 to put Waringstown within 11 runs of victory and five overs remaining. A stroll in the dusk! Not a bit of it. Morrison, for some reason, tried to half the target in one stroke and was bowled and then, with eight balls to go and just three to win, Hanna was unlucky to fall to a good catch at long-off by Barry Archer. That left Geoff Heyburn in strike and, rightly trying to take a single off the last ball of the penultimate over, he got no response from Simon Stokes and was duly run out.

Six balls left, two to tie and if the last pair could stay at the wicket Waringstown would win the game on fewer wickets lost. When Stephen Archer bowled a wide to level the scores that was John Finlay's target but to the last ball he pushed forward with pad instead of bat and the umpire's finger went up. The Hills started wild celebrations thinking they had earned a replay - until the rule-book intervened.

Something, though, will have to be changed before next season. If Finlay had scored two from the first ball of that last over to tie the scores and been out to the second ball Waringstown would have won the match! Instead he tried to hold out as long as possible, failed, and Waringstown lost! That's not cricket, surely.