Bowl out farce in Irish Cup
Alistair Bushe (News Letter)
Ireland's premier competition was reduced to farce on Sunday night as the Irish Cup's bowl-out rule led to the exit of two of the cup favourites, Waringstown and Dublin YMCA.
Cricket Ireland's cricket committee voted last year to scrap replays in the competition after the first round. But after 2013's golden summer the rule hadn't been used until Sunday.
North West champions Coleraine, who had YMCA in early trouble with the ball, won 3-2 on a bowl-out after a massive downpour flooded Sandel Lodge.
However, there was controversy at The Lawn where a decision to abandon the game between Waringstown and Railway Union was only taken just after 7pm in glorious sunshine.
Just under 16 overs of play had been possible as two prolonged downpours left Railway Union's innings closed on 68 for two.
When the rain finally stopped the ground-staff worked for more than two-and a-half hours to repair the outfield but concern remained about the condition of a small area, a few metres wide, close to the boundary.
The cut-off time for a 10-over match was 7.10pm and at 7pm the umpires, Alan Neill and Noel McCarey, told captains Lee Nelson and Kevin O'Brien that they were concerned about the area, but were willing to officiate if both captains agreed to play.
Ireland international O'Brien however declined and it proceeded to a bowl-out which Railway won 3-1. The Dubliners, who beat Instonians by the same method in the first round, have now reached the last eight without winning a single game on the pitch.
Waringstown would have been favourites to progress in a 10-over match, chasing a Duckworth-Lewis target of 83 in 10 overs with 10 wickets in hand against a Railway Union attack regarded as one of the weaker in the Leinster League.
It's understood that Cricket Ireland's cricket committee, made up of representatives from Leinster, the NCU and North West took the decision to abandon replays because of a perceived shortage of reserve dates.
However, with the quarter-finals not being staged until June 29 and with the semi-finals on August 2, the committee's logic appears flawed.
Waringstown's exit leaves North Down as the only remaining NCU Premier League team in the competition. The Comber are one of the favourites for the tournament having thrashed Phoenix by seven wickets at The Green on Sunday.
The Dubliners are bottom of Division 2 in Leinster and they were blown away batting first in typically fine conditions at The Green.
Taimur Khan and PJ Muir both took early wickets as Phoenix crawled out of the traps and spinners James Cameron-Dowe and Marty Moreland turned the screw.
Cameron-Dow, whose form will be attracting the attention of the Irish selectors, claimed three for 30 while Moreland took one for 25 in his 10 overs.
Phoenix were reduced to 95 for nine but a last-wicket partnership of 33 gave them the merest hint of respectability with 128 all out in 44.1 overs.
North Down did wobble briefly in reply, as openers Nick Larkin and Jonathan Terrett fell in quick succession to leave them 26 for two, but Ryan Haire, the North Down captain, was a man in a hurry.
The left-hander top scored with an unbeaten 70 from just 61 balls, hitting nine fours and three sixes.
North Down, who are searching for their first Irish Cup success since 1995, raced home in just 23.3 overs.
Along with Merrion, who have lost the last two finals, holders Clontarf and 2012 winners The Hills, Haire's men will be one of the fancied contenders.
Bready's bid to reach the last eight was ended by The Hills at Skerries.
David Scanlon's men briefly had the home side on the rack when they batted first.
With The Hills struggling on 122 for seven, Bready were on top but an undefeated partnership of 70 for the eighth wicket helped them recover to 192 for seven.
Bready were blown away in reply as Luke Clinton took five wickets before Scanlon smashed an unbeaten 49 from 52 balls to help them reach 133 all out.