Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
This was a Schools Cup Final like no other – and with no losers. RBAI’s name was on the cup as soon as the semi-finals had been decided and the school’s 2nd XI had their day in the sun.
The result was always like to be a foregone conclusion – and the 211 runs margin of victory was a record in the final – but RBAI 2nd XI had earned their place in the showpiece with victories over Ballyclare High, Belfast Royal Academy and Campbell College.
Admittedly only 10 schools entered the competition this year because of Covid and travel concerns but those results only underlined the strength in depth which RBAI have over their rivals.
What other school employs a strength and conditioning coach? – Ireland international Stuart Thompson took that role at Inst three weeks ago. What other school asks for games against NCU Development XIs to give them competitive action during term time? That paid off as well because the two Under-15 teams which entered the Schools Intermediate Cup will contest that decider on Monday - and the Under 13 side won the Schools Junior Cup on Wednesday.
So the clean sweep of trophies, heading to Belfast city centre, was already guaranteed when the captains tossed up at Osborne Park yesterday just before 10am.
And when the best 11 in a school meet the second best 11 there really could be only one winner and the gap was there for all to see.
RBAI’s total of 260 for seven beat the previous best of 243 for six by Foyle College in 2009 and Jack Dickson’s 88 is the highest individual total, surpassing current Ireland chairman of selectors Andrew White’s 85 for Regent House back in 1998.
Adam Wylie then became the first bowler to take five wickets in the cup final while Jacob Boyd’s defiant six – from the penultimate ball of the match – avoided the ignominy of the 2nd XI posting the lowest total in the 35th final.
Winning captain Ben Beattie’s first thought was the losers.
“Well done to the 2nd XI for even reaching the final up against tough opposition throughout,” he said. “But the boys played really well and were just too much for them.
“ Jack was a bit disappointed that he didn’t go on and get a ton but couple of the other boys, Adam Ly and Thomas Johnston (who scored a fluent 41) also did well, so well done to everyone.
“The bowlers then did the business and we can’t complain at 49 all out We were trying to get Adam his hat-trick but it just wouldn’t come.”
Wylie had already taken three wickets in four balls to claim his five-for, but Jamie Beattie kept out the hat-trick ball and it was left to Nathan Toland and sixth bowler James Rose to finish the innings in only the 18th over.
There was never any doubt that the 1st XI would bat the full 40 overs – not when they were 42 for no wicket after just five overs and 147 for one after 24. The constant throughout those first two partnerships was Adam Ly ,a left-hander with an impressive array of shots and, like most of his team-mates scored at a run-a-ball.
He survived a straightforward chance at long-on on 34 but still brought up his half century in 51 balls, with five fours and a six before holing out to the same position 10 runs later.
Dickson dominated the strike for large parts of their second wicket stand of 87 and he had an identical boundary count in his half-century from four balls longer, although he too got a reprieve, on 38, when he should have been stumped.
The difference in fielding was highlighted in only the second over of the 2nd XI innings when wicket-keeper Beattie held a superb diving catch to dismiss Jack Fernando and a further six catches were held in the innings as the last eight wickets fell for just 18 runs.