Thrills and spills in NCU T20 finals
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
CIYMS are the first team through to All-Ireland T20 finals day after they retained the Lagan Valley Steels T20 Cup with another highly professional display in Comber.
North Down were handed home advantage because Waringstown told the NCU they were not confident they could stage two finals in one day after the heavy rain during the week, but it made no difference to last year's quadruple winners who defended 138 at The Green by 11 runs.
Even though Allen Coulter pulled up with a knee problem four balls into his third over, skipper Nigel Jones still had enough resources to make light of what would have been a fatal blow for most other teams.
Indeed Jones, unusually, was not only wicketless but the most expensive of the CI bowlers, although he still had Mark Adair as his main weapon and the Ireland international did not let him down.
Adair's first two overs were in the powerplay, when he conceded just four runs, and he was brought back in the 14th over, dismissing the dangerous Ryan Haire with his first ball and was then kept back for the last over, when the hosts needed 14 to win; they managed a bye and a single.
Having earlier hit 23 off 19 balls, it was a fairly straightforward decision to award him the man of the match with Jones the only other candidate, scoring 43 of the 55 runs which CI scored in the last seven and a half overs; he cleared the rope three times and hit three other fours.
The holders also had to survive the loss of Chris Dougherty for a golden duck, the opener's first dismissal in the competition this year, but John Matchett and Jason van der Merwe both scored at a run-a-ball to keep the scoreboard ticking along.
North Down will look back on two dropped catches - Matchett on 20 and Jones on 25 - as being decisive but 138, even with the ball not always coming onto the bat, was certainly not out of sight at halfway - which is why Jones will admit that his bowlers won it.
After 10 overs, North Down openers Ruhan Pretorius and Aditya Adey were still together but they had scored only 58 runs. Two balls later, Jacob Mulder made the breakthrough when Adey was caught on the long-on boundary and Ally Shields' decision to send in Ryan Haire next showed they needed to up the pace.
Adair halted that idea in its tracks and after Mulder had dismissed the captain and with Pretorius struggling at the other end - he hit only two boundaries in his 57 balls - it was Peter Eakin who got North Down within touching distance with a quickfire 26. But having hit Mulder for four and six off successive balls to reduce the target to 14 off seven balls, Eakin holed out to extra cover and Adair still had six balls left!
Meanwhile, Cregagh won the T20 Trophy, the second of the NCU's cups to be decided yesterday, but only because of a rules error in a dramatic finale at Saintfield.
The scores were tied at the end of the teams' 20 overs but Saintfield had lost one fewer wicket and should have been declared the winners.
Adam Beattie actually bowled Adam Sofley with the last ball of the match but with only six wickets down, to Cregagh's seven, it should not have mattered.
But the umpires, wrongly, decreed a SuperOver should be played - all the players were happy to go along with the decision - and, after Saintfield had scored nine from the their extra six balls, Adam McCormick hit the second and third balls for four. A single tied the scores, again, Craig Irvine hit the winning run with a ball to spare and Cregagh received the trophy.