If an action-packed opening day of the season is anything to go by, then cricket fans in the North West and NCU are in for a real treat this summer.
There were dramatic matches in the top flights of both regions, with Nathan Waller’s sensational unbeaten 135 for CIYMS on his debut against former club Lisburn the story of the day in the NCU.
The big Zimbabwean, who caused furore over the winter when he criticised the standard of club cricket here, struck six fours and 10 sixes, two which carried over the pavilion at Belmont, as CI pulled off the unlikeliest of one-wicket victories with just a ball to spare.
Lisburn, who had earlier posted 249 for nine built around Darryl Brown’s century, looked to have the points in the bag as they reduced CI to a perilous 158 for eight.
But Waller and 16-year-old John Matchett added 91 for the ninth wicket and although Matchett fell in the final over with the scores level, last man Stephen Hughes squeezed the winning run through the covers off the penultimate ball of the match from David Simpson.
There was a also a nerve-shredding finale in the North West Premiership where Bready toppled Donemana at The Holm by the same one-wicket margin. The 2012 treble winners posted 255 for nine batting first with debutant Stephen Wallace top scoring with 89.
But his efforts were eclipsed by North West Warriors batsman David Rankin who struck 10 fours and two sixes in a brilliant 108. However, Junior McBrine claimed four wickets and when Bready’s ninth wicket fell they were still four runs short of victory.
Last pair Andy Lucas and Darren Moore got over the line with three balls to spare.
Premiership new boys Ardmore also pushed reigning champions Coleraine all the way at The Bleachgreen.
Defending a total of 188, last year’s Championship winners had Coleraine on the rack at 95 for four and later 157 for seven.
However, new captain Gordon Cooke and Jarred Barnes ended all hope of an upset with an unbeaten eighth-wicket stand to take the Bannsiders home with seven balls to spare.