It’s stretching things to declare that the outcome of a match on the third weekend of the season could ultimately decide a league title, but Instonians’ victory over Waringstown on Saturday may yet be hugely significant in the final analysis.
Had Inst, the reigning champions, lost, they would have been without a win in two Premier League games and with a mountain to climb in the defence of their trophy.
Instead, a 20-run victory underlined their almost total dominance of their great rivals in recent league cricket. This was, incredibly, the fifth win for Instonians in the last six league matches between the sides at The Lawn. Inst have also won six of their last seven Premier League games against Waringstown, a domination that ultimately decided the outcome of last year’s title race and indeed the 2014 one when Inst beat Waringstown twice at the end of the campaign when the race had seemed over. The villagers’ win in last summer’s Irish Cup semi-final appears almost like an aberration.
Several factors were decisive in the final outcome, not least catching. While Waringstown dropped Shane Getkate from the very first ball he faced as an Instonian and several other important opportunities went begging, Instonians caught brilliantly, especially when Greg Thompson was held inches above the ground by Rob McKinley racing in from the boundary off Nathan Smith.
Waringstown’s approach to chasing a modest target of 190 was haphazard after Adam Dennison had batted imperiously for 39 from just 31 balls, striking four of McKinley’s first five balls to the boundary in a breathtaking display of strokeplay.
But from 51 for one, with Dennison batting at a different level to anyone all day, they were soon inexplicably 61 for five as wickets fell to a sequence of rash shots.
Dennison was caught off a leading edge off Smith and in the same over David Dawson drove loosely outside the off-stump and found gully.
Much rested on Lee Nelson and Thompson but the former fell gloving a short ball from McKinley (3-52) and most crucially Thompson holed out an over later. Two of Waringstown’s most experienced players had been guilty of gifting their wickets to attacking strokes despite an asking rate of little more than three runs per over.
Kyle McCallan didn’t last long either but wicketkeeper Marcus McClean added 54 with Shaheen Khan before the Waringstown professional edged an out-swinger from Getkate.
McClean struck three fours and three sixes in 50 from 54 balls to take the home side within 20 runs with last man Phil Eaglestone but with Inst nerves fraying he was last man out with almost 13 overs unused.
Earlier in the day Inst had looked poised for an imposing total as captain Nikolai Smith (42) and James Shannon (39) added 69 for the third wicket but from 98 for two they were soon 138 for seven.
Had Getkate been taken at slip off McCallan first ball it’s unlikely Inst would have reached 150, but the Dubliner made the most of the reprieve, hitting over the on-side with the formidable force of his bottom hand in a 40 that included two fours and two sixes.
Khan bowled impressively to take took five for 41, but Getkate received gritty support from the tail to drag Inst to 190, a total that gave their battery of fast bowlers something to defend.
That could become a trend. With this seam attack, Inst can defend most totals.