NCU CRICKET: It’s a two-horse race at top of NCU Premier League

Waringstown's James Hall

Waringstown's James Hall

With the replay of the Arthur J Gallagher Challenge Cup semi-final at Belmont having been called off 24 hours earlier all attention on Saturday focussed on the two Ulster Bank league games.

The main protagonists Waringstown and Instonians were at home to Lisburn and CSNI respectively.

Both won their T20 league clashes on Friday evening and at The Lawn play began as scheduled with Lisburn batting.

Thus far batting has been the Achilles heel for the visitors and the Waringstown opening bowlers certainly exploited conditions early on.

It seemed to be a case of déjà vu as both Phil Eaglestone and professional Cobus Pienaar picked up two wickets each to leave Lisburn 21-4.

The difference this time was that Nathan Waller who many will remember from his previous spell with the club, strode to the wicket at number six.

Zimbabwean Waller is holidaying in the north and will be available for the remainder of the season and on Saturday’s evidence he is a more than welcome addition.

Rather than retreat into their shells Lisburn counterattacked with both Steve Lazars and Waller playing positive shots.

Gary Kidd’s first three overs went for 8,10 and 7 respectively. Lazars had made 33 off 37 balls when Kyle McCallan deceived him in the flight and clean bowled him.

Waller had begun circumspectly but as his confidence grew so did the range of shots, at the other end David Simpson provided a more than ample foil.

The pair added 65 for the sixth wicket, with Simpson’s contribution 20.

First Waller passed 50 off 62 balls and then the fireworks; 50 off the next 33 balls.

He was eventually out for 111 with six maximums and seven other boundaries, Lisburn without doubt happy with a fightback seeing them post 230.

All that can really be said about the Waringstown reply was that it was an exhibition of paced control, 33 off 11, 110 off 25, 150 off 31.

Never at any stage did it look like they were under pressure with openers James Hall and James McCollum steadily accumulating and then stepping on the accelerator.

Hall’s innings was reminiscent of his vintage start to 2015. The score was already past 150 before Lisburn broke through, McCollum caught by Calum Atkinson off Lazars for 61 (102 balls, seven fours)

Lisburn tried everything, using eight bowlers in total; Mark Berry’s last over summed it up as he went for 21.

Hall brought up the second century of the game off Rick McConkey but the celebrations were short lived as he was caught behind next ball.

His 100 came from 105 balls with two sixes and 10 fours and in the process he surpassed teammate Kyle McCallan’s record of 12 centuries for the club.

There was still time for Cobus Pienaar promoted to number three to get some useful time in the middle with 35 not out, before Adam Dennison hit the winning boundary with 10 balls remaining.

At Shaw’s Bridge Instonians made life a little more difficult than they needed against CSNI.

With a delayed start and Graeme McCarter injuring his back in the warm-up it gave Paddy Park the opportunity to rack up perhaps a unique feat.

CSNI’s Park playing for the second eleven; had top scored when he had the call to get to Shaw’s Bridge to replace McCarter. With an unbeaten 66 from 72 balls with two sixes and six fours, his was comfortably the highest score on either side.

For Instonians Robert McKinley once again impressed taking 4-17 off 9 overs.

After Nikolai Smith and Stephen Bunting put on 71 for the first wicket Instonians faltered as Mansoor Amjad took 3-21, before eventually winning by three wickets.