A hot sunny May greeted Ireland's first 1989 match. Gilbey's Ulster Games sponsored Northamptonshire's first visit to Ireland to play against Ireland, to make up for the disappointment of 1987 when they were unable to come. The sponsors amount was pounds 2000 and there were secondary sponsors for smaller amounts. Due to poor crowds there was a loss on the visit.
For Ireland Rea was doing exams, Masood suspended and Milling was now teaching in Liverpool. From the team which played against Scotland in 1988, Wallace was dropped and Vincent, although in the panel of 12, did not play. New caps P McCrum (opening bowler) and AR Semple (a batsman who could bowl) were brought in. When Jackson suffered a hand injury the number of uncapped players went up to 3, there being a surprise choice of AT Rutherford as wicket-keeper. Bailey had retired, Anthony had not played and Rutherford had only kept wicket once for the North West - on the previous Saturday against Munster before five of the six selectors. Halliday was dropped and Garth returned to the team.
Northants were beset by injury and illness. Only NGB Cook, the acting captain, Stanley, Wild, Felton and Roberts (who had just made his debut) had first team experience. Roger Harper, the West Indian Test player was recruited from the Lancashire League and DJ Murray was a New Zealander on a cricket scholarship. The pitch at Downpatrick was good and much praised by the visitors.#
Northants won the toss and Felton and Murray began briskly. 50 came up in 14.1 overs but McCrum missed a caught and bowled chance from Felton in his third over. Nelson bowled his 12 overs from the start and conceded only 28 runs while 65 runs were hit off McCrum, Garth and Thompson at the other end, Garth being hit for 32 in five overs. Murray, playing well and correctly, reached 50 in 72 minutes and 100 was up in 24.4 overs.
McBrine came on for the 26th over and stemmed the tide. In his fourth over he bowled Felton. 122-1-44. Thompson was also doing a good containing job. Lunch came after 39 overs, with the score at 137-1, Murray 80, Wild 6. The remaining 21 overs yielded 106 runs and 7 more wickets - a good Irish performance. Harrison took up the bowling with McBrine. The latter took the next two wickets. Wilde was caught at mid-on with the score on 147 and Stanley was LBW at 157. Murray, joined by Harper, was now 91 and he soon went to his century in 172 minutes - taking 28 minutes longer over the second 50. McBrine had 3-28 in his 12 overs. He came off with the total at 159-3 with 12 overs remaining in the innings.
Harpur hit Harrison for six and was caught at short fine leg next ball. The score was now 181-4 in the 53rd over. Murray then put bat to ball and the floodgates opened. He hit 20 off Harrison's next over and added 39 in 14 minutes with Noon. Thompson returned for Harrison and had Murray caught at the wicket with his first ball. 220-5-135. Murray batted 189 minutes and faced 187 balls. He struck 2 sixes and 12 fours. With the score at 228 Noon was brilliantly caught at mid-wicket off McCrum who, in the same over, had Cook LBW. Another brilliantly taken catch by Lewis at long-off accounted for Smith in the second last over, bowled by Thompson. Nelson, McBrine and Thompson were the best of the bowlers.
At 3:14 PM Warke and Cohen opened to the bowling of Smith and Christie. The start was slow with Warke palpably out of form. Newton and Harper were tried but 50 came up in 17.3 overs. In the 19th over Harper bowled Cohen. 53-1-35. Roberts, a young small leg-spinner, came on for the 20th over (with the score at 53) with dire results! He took wickets in his first, third, fifth, sixth and eight overs by which time Ireland were 102-7. He got two of these wickets before tea which came with the score on 57-3 after 25 overs. Warke was out cutting at him with the score at 54 and Harrison bowled hitting across the line at 56. After tea Lewis rushed at him and was stumped with the total at 66 and Garth bowled around his legs at the same score. Semple was stumped with the score on 75.
Enter McBrine with the score at 75-6. There followed an innings which brought to mind Prior's century against Warwickshire in 1982. McBrine reached 50 in 28 minutes (off 31 balls) and was out for 70 in 41 minutes (39 balls). He hit 4 sixes and 8 fours, all wonderful strokes of timing and power. 100 came up in 37.3 overs but at 102 he lost Thompson caught at deep extra cover off Roberts. The latter had 5-15 in eight overs. His last four overs cost 46! 3 of McBrine's 4 sixes came off him, the 4th off Cook.
Rutherford joined in the fun and together they added 66 in 26 minutes with 150 coming up in 41.4 overs, the last 50 in only 4.2 overs. Christie returned and was pulled for four by McBrine. At 168-7, with 14.5 overs remaining and 76 needed, an Irish win was possible. McBrine, however, was out next ball. He mistimed his shot and was caught at mid-on. He received a wonderful ovation and the Irish Man-of-the-Match Award. Smith took the last two wickets including the gallant Rutherford (20) and Ireland were all out for 182 in 53 overs. Roberts got the Northants Man-of-the-Match Award. An interesting statistic is that Ireland hit 21 boundaries, the same number as hit by Northants. This shows up the County side's better placing of the ball and their better speed and judgement in running.