CRICKET: Jason Van der Merwe in irresistible form as CSNI win NCU Challenge Cup

Senior Challenge Cup winners CSNI.

Senior Challenge Cup winners CSNI.

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David Bowie’s Heroes, begins with the line “I, I will be king”; and as we watched the NCU President Peter McMorran present the Arthur J Gallagher NCU Challenge Cup trophy to Andrew Cowden captain of winners CSNI, there was only one king on Friday.

Jason van der Merwe’s innings of 98 at a run a ball with 9x4’s and 3x6’s ensured he had already been crowned Man of the Match. No-one had ever doubted his talent but this was surely the day he finally blossomed on the big stage.

His skipper, Andrew Cowden, said: “The batting of Jason and Shane Getkate made the rest of us look like onions; it was a fantastic partnership and then to have the international and county experience of Graeme McCarter coming in, fully justified us playing him as a batsman.”

At 72-4 in the 20th over chasing an unlikely 244 to win, as CIYMS were beginning to exercise a level of control, Van der Merwe strode to the middle to join Shane Getkate.

The player himself was complete unfazed, saying: “I owed the team this one, without a doubt it is the best day of my career to date. Shane Getkate was batting well, I took my time to get in but to be honest I was confident and found it easy to bat. The run rate was never out of hand and I felt we were always in control.”

CSNI won the toss and Cowden had no hesitation in bowling. After a crazy first 14 balls CI were reeling, the score 1-3.

Chris Dougherty, fourth ball, was caught one-handed by Getkate off John Costain. In the next over Rajavelu was caught again one-handed by a horizontal Mansoor Amjad and then Costain bowled Jack Beattie.

The big names were in the middle and the ball was barely scuffed. To CI’s credit they knuckled down and Nigel Jones and Justin Kemp took it to 96 before Jones, immediately after bringing up his 50, was caught by Corin Goodall off Cowden.

Stephen Chambers joined Kemp who was playing with restraint, only hitting two fours in his 50, then immediately after he had hit Van der Merwe straight for 6, next ball Ben Adair took a catch close to the wicket, ending a 70 run partnership.

Chambers went soon after for 42, leaving Johnny Thompson to provide impetus with 37 from 26 balls, clearing the ropes three times.

CI’s total looked around par, but when Wayne Horwood, Paddy Beverland and most significantly Mansoor Amjad went cheaply the writing seemed to be on the wall. After his blazing innings against Waringstown in the semi-final this was a more controlled display from Getkate.

It almost came as a shock when Jack Beattie took a low catch off Zache Rushe, Getkate’s 64 from 71 balls with 7 fours. Van der Merwe’s innings was an almost flawless display.

Afterwards, Cowden’s reaction to the day was revealing.

“The toss worked well for us, we wanted to chase - a great start but we didn’t get carried away. The key players were always Kemp, Jones and JT, perhaps we gave away 25 more than we should at the end, but Comber is a hard place to defend.

CIYMS captain Jones was frank in his summing up, adding: “We lost it between the 25th and 30th overs, gave away too many wides and some of the fielding was sloppy.”

Even if it is just for one day, the hero was Jason van der Merwe, but I think he has much more to come.