BRIGADE can look forward to representing Ireland in next year’s European Cricket League have claiming the All-Ireland T20 title with victory over Cork Harlequins in Rathmines yesterday.
Andy Britton led his team from the front, picking up four wickets in an exciting finish as the North West side bravely defended an under-par 125 for eight against the surprise finalists.
This was the first time a Munster side had appeared in an all-Ireland decider and for long periods of yesterday’s showdown they showed just why they had stunned Leinster cup kings Merrion in the semi-final earlier this month.
When Harlequins reached 76 for four with 37 balls remaining, they were still dreaming of turning that first final appearance into a victory one but Ross Allen ended the stubborn fifth wicket stand of 42 and the momentum was with Brigade.
Eleven balls later, Britton took a superb low return catch to reduce the Cork side to 87 for six and when the skipper took two more wickets in the 18th over, the winning post was in sight.
Davy Barr conceded only four runs in the penultimate over and capped it with a stumping by Simon Olphert from the fifth ball to leave Harlequins with the unlikely task of scoring 19 from the last over by Ryan Macbeth.
Four dot balls effectively won the match and although Zubair Hassan Khan hit the last two balls for six and four, the celebrations were already under way in the Brigade camp.
They were much less confident at halfway and, indeed, only two overs earlier they were struggling at 98 for eight after being put into bat. But what proved the decisive over was the 19th of the Brigade innings with Ryan Barr hitting Hassan Khan’s first three balls for six.
Another five runs came off the other three deliveries but just when the North West side were eyeing a total in excess of 130, both batsmen holed out to long-on from the first two balls of the final over!
Colin Dixon could manage only a couple of twos from the final four balls but in the end, Brigade already had enough.
Brigade’s in-form opening batsman Davy Barr, however, will be in no hurry to return to Rathmines. In his previous innings at the Leinster ground, he was out for a second ball duck, playing for North West Warriors. Yesterday, he faced four balls and scored a single before he was Hassan Khan’s first wicket.
The other dependable batsman this season for Brigade has been Adam McDaid but he was another early casualty, slicing a big drive straight to cover for just nine in the fourth over.
David Murdock and Kyle Magee led the recovery but when the former was bowled in the ninth over, after he had brought up his side’s 50, the innings stalled.
Britton, who won the semi-final against Carrickfergus last week with a whirlwind 42 not out, was in the middle in the 12th over with just 60 on the board and although he needed only 13 balls to reach 16, with the help of two powerful boundaries, the second just inches short of a six at extra cover, he then found one of the two fielders at deep mid-wicket.
When Magee followed three balls later, to another boundary catch, Brigade were 85 for seven and desperately in need of those late Ryan Barr heroics.
His 26 runs from 11 balls duly sent the Brigade bowlers into the second innings with a spring in their step and Britton made an instant breakthrough in the first over, Ifti Hussain followed with a wicket from his first ball and when Ryan Macbeth had Murtaza Sidiqi caught at extra cover, Harlequins were 23 for three.
Skipper Matt Brewster gave Ross Allen his first wicket in the eighth over but then came that stand between Jack Buss and Mubeen Ali which set up the thrilling finale.
With one trophy safely on its way back to Beechgrove, Brigade can now concentrate on adding the North West Senior Cup but they still have two games to negotiate after Saturday’s semi-final was rained off at the halfway stage after they had bowled out Newbuildings for 162, including four wickets by Davy Barr.
The semi-final has been rearranged for next Saturday.