Ireland won their first NatWest Trophy tie in 20 attempts yesterday beating Northumberland by five wickets with 2.1 overs to spare in Newcastle. Ed Joyce delivered the win with a succession of flowing drives following good work from openers Neil Carson and Kyle McCallan but the day belonged to 19-year-old Dwayne McGerrigle who took 5-66. The Donemana seam bowler began a larger than life debut by taking a wicket with his fourth ball and then struck three crucial blows in his final over. At 215-3, Northumberland were poised for a final assault in their last six overs that could have buried Ireland's hopes for another year. However, six balls later, they were 217-6 and struggled to reach 253-8.
Home opener Wayne Falla had shown the Irish how to hit through the ball as he took advantage of an early spilled chance to top score for Northumberland with 80, but soon Carson and McCallan were making rapid progress in a stand of 103. Carson hit 10 boundaries including a six in his 79-ball half-century and Stephen Smyth also enjoyed himself with successive big sixes on an excellent Jesmond pitch before falling to mid-wicket.
Irish nerves may have been a little frayed when South African professional Gerald Dros was out caught and Andy Patterson fell victim to a smart leg-side stumping with 56 still needed, but even when the first class counties enter this competition in June, there will be few better men than Joyce coming in at seven.
Ireland's next opponents will be the Essex "recreational" side at Comber on the 19th May with the winners earning a home tie against County champions Leicestershire.
When Ed Joyce drilled a four to the extra cover boundary to secure a five wicket victory over Northumberland in the NatWest Trophy at Jesmond yesterday, it brought a happy ending to a day of some anxiety. Five wickets and 13 balls in hand looks comfortable but had debutant Dwayne McGerrigle not produced his Man-of-the-Match winning wicket in the 45th over the home side could have made the target very distant indeed. The mathematics of the last 10 overs were simple. Ireland required five runs an over with five wickets in hand and skipper Angus Dunlop sensibly dropped anchor and allowed Joyce have his day which he did with some style.
Replying to Northumberland's 253, Kyle McCallan and Neil Carson set up a wonderful platform of 103 but Stephen Smyth was in too much of a hurry and after a couple of marvellous sixes and fours he perished taking the aerial route once too often. South African "guest" Gerald Dros fell to a great catch on the third man boundary but he will be disappointed that he did not play more of a percentage game.
Although McGerrigle's final figures were impressive, he had taken a pounding up to that magical 45th over. After his ninth over his figures stood at 2-65. In fact although McCallan and Ryan Eagleson finished wicketless, their concession of 31 runs each in their 10 overs spells mark them out as the pick of the Irish attack. Matt Dwyer was unusually varied in his length and Gordon Cooke produced a mixed bag. The latter was costly but would have had three wickets had Dunlop steadied himself under a skier when the home side's top scorer Wayne Falla, who scored 80, was only on 21.
While comparison of the extras columns will show the home side's hospitality was more than generous, the happy fact is that this was Ireland's first NatWest Trophy win (or Gillette Cup predecessor) going back to 1980.
Next up are the Essex County Board side at Comber, today fortnight, with a third round home match against English County Champions Leicestershire the prize. A good day was had by everyone Irish but, as chairman of selectors Ronnie Lawlor noted, "We made it unnecessarily difficult for ourselves".