Waringstown’s unbeaten NCU Premier League record ended in the most unsatisfactory of circumstances against title rivals Instonians at The Lawn on Sunday night.
The villagers were favourites to record an eighth successive league victory when a huge deluge struck the Co Down venue in the 23rd over of the visitors’ run chase.
Instonians, chasing a stiff target of 249 in 47 overs, were decently placed on 95 for two, but with two of their three batting big guns, Nikolai Smith and Andrew White, back in the pavilion, Waringstown were surely better placed than their opponents, even if Inst were adjudged five runs ahead by the contentious Duckworth-Lewis method.
With a long tail to come, much rested on the shoulders of James Shannon and Rusty Theron, the unbeaten third-wicket pair, who had already added 40 runs when the rain arrived just after 5pm.
But, in a match that brought back memories of the washed-out league game between these clubs at Shaw’s Bridge two years ago, when a Waringstown victory would have secured the title ultimately won by Inst, it is Smith’s men who now have the momentum in the race.
Waringstown’s senior players will probably rue their decision to bat first when the forecast suggested a deluge later in the day, but it’s difficult to be too critical of captains who face a weekly challenge when trying to factor in rain to their decisions at the toss.
As it was, Adam Dennison batted beautifully for the home side, completely dominating a third-wicket stand of 73 with his captain Lee Nelson and at 131 for two, a total of more than 250 should have been in their sights.
But when Inst belatedly turned to spin, the innings turned on its head, with Nelson caught at long-on off White (2-29) and then Dennison lbw to Lewis McNamara after striking seven boundaries in a superb 72.
Waringstown inexplicably lost four wickets for just 24 runs to slump to 168 for seven, McNamara claiming three of those scalps, but thereafter the visitors rather lost the plot, sticking with McNamara and then Shannon two overs too long as young wicketkeeper Marcus McClean and Kyle McCallan launched a blistering assault.
A remarkable 53 runs were struck in the closing three overs, the penultimate over from Shannon going for 24, with McClean clearing the leg-side boundary three balls in succession.
With Rusty Theron and Robert McKinley both having overs unused it was baffling captaincy as McClean finished unbeaten on 45 and McCallan on 35. The stand was worth 80 runs and the momentum appeared to be with Waringstown.
Instead the weather had the final say, just as it did at Middle Road where Derriaghy gained a crucial victory in the relegation battle. They won by just two runs on Duckworth-Lewis, a result that leaves Challenge Cup finalists CIYMS rock bottom of the table.
Without a league victory since the opening day of the season, few gave Derriaghy a chance but Carrickfergus struggled batting first despite a positive start delivered by the openers, Michael Gilmour (28) and Iain Parkhill (25).
They added 49 in less than 12 overs but from there Derriaghy’s spin attack, their biggest strength, gained a stranglehold on the game.
Wayne Hughes took the pivotal wickets of overseas duo Pat Botha and Jamie Holmes as he claimed figures of three for 26 while Robert Cummins claimed three for 36, including the scalp of top scorer Ryan Eagleson for 42.
In a match reduced to 42 overs per side, a total of 169 for seven was under par and openers Ross Bailey and Adam Jamison slowly but surely made inroads into the target.
They put on 83 before Jamison fell for 37, but the visitors did seem largely unaware that despite having lost only one wicket, with rain around, they could still lose on Duckworth-Lewis.
They eventually got ahead by just two runs when the rain arrived, Bailey unbeaten on 51 from 99 balls, with three fours and a six.
In Section One Lurgan were unable to field a team against Muckamore.