North Down reached the semi-finals of the Irish Cup for the first time in 14 years after pulling off a remarkable run chase to beat Coleraine at Sandel Lodge last night.
Peter Eakin, the Northern Knights all-rounder, plundered 60 from just 39 balls as the Comber side chased down a mammoth target of 304 with eight balls to spare.
The result represented heartbreak for Coleraine, who had gone out of the North West Senior Cup to Donemana a day previously.
Niall McDonnell, the opening batsman, appeared to have put the Bannsiders in control on a cracking batting pitch, top scoring with 103 from 116 balls including 11 boundaries.
McDonnell shared century partnerships for the first and second wickets with Scott Campbell and South African professional Kylinn Vardhan. Campbell struck five fours and two sixes in his 52 from 58 balls but it was the 119-run stand between McDonnell and Vardhan that really upped the ante.
Vardhan eventually fell for 84 from 90 balls having struck 11 boundaries but former Ireland international David Cooke ensured the innings still finished on a flourish with an unbeaten 42 from 29 balls. The wicketkeeper struck three fours and two sixes. James Cameron-Dow was the pick of the North Down attack, the left-arm spinner taking three for 49 in his 10 overs.
Crucially for North Down, their openers Jonathan Terrett (47) and Andrew Sutherland (44) came out firing in a century stand in less than 19 overs. Only Rishi Chopra, the spinner, was able to keep a lid on the scoring rate as he conceded just 32 in 10 overs.
It was during the third-wicket partnership between captain Ryan Haire and Nick Larkin that North Down started getting ahead of the asking rate.
The pair added 77 in just 62 balls with Haire striking six fours and a six in his 45 from just 35 balls.
Haire eventually fell to Jarred Barnes when Larkin was run out by Paul Douglas for 46, Coleraine were back in with a semblance of a chance.
Eakin though joined forces with Taimur Khan in what was effectively a match-winning stand of 80 in 62 balls. Eakin struck two fours and four sixes before falling with just seven runs needed. Taimur remained unbeaten on 39 from 46 balls in what was by far his most significant innings of the season and it was left to Alistair Shields to hit the winning runs.
There was no third fairytale for St Johnston however, as the North West Championship side were on the wrong end of a remarkable innings from Clontarf’s Andrew Poynter. The Ireland international hit a stunning 195 as the holders joined North Down The Hills and Pembroke in the last four.
The Hills, the 2012 winners, won a low-scoring match with Railway Union in the final over. They reached a modest target of 149 with just four balls to spare.
The biggest shock of the day came as Merrion, finalists in three of the last four years, and arguably the tournament favourites, were knocked out by fellow Dubliners Pembroke. Barry McCarthy top scored with 65 as Pembroke got home by three wickets.
The draw for the last four will be made during this week’s Interprovincial game between Leinster Lightning and North West Warriors at Malahide. North Down will be crossing their fingers for a home tie.