As one NCU Premier League captain remarked this weekend, Greg Thompson has arguably been the most influential cricketer of the season.
The Waringstown all-rounder may not have taken the most wickets, or scored the most runs, but as someone with a knack of making match-winning contributions at critical moments, he has few peers.
The villagers lost the Challenge Cup final to Civil Service North while he was on honeymoon so at The Lawn on Saturday there was an element of Thompson reminding everyone exactly the difference he could have made.
Saturday’s pivotal league match was finely poised when Thompson strode to the wicket with Waringstown 104 for four and the visiting bowlers having the leaders in a stranglehold.
The CSNI spinners had got the ball to turn significantly and even occasionally spit off a length and Waringstown’s run rate was barely three runs per over.
At 122 for four with 13 overs left, 200 might have been the height of their ambitions but with Thompson almost any total is achievable.
In truth CSNI should have stopped the assault before it got into full swing - Jason van der Merwe dropped him at deep mid-wicket when he was 35 - and how dearly they paid.
There were towering blows off Ben Adair, the off-spinner, and professional Griffin Nieuwoudt but the biggest of the lot came in the 49th off when Shane Getkate was deposited over the machine house at long-on. Nineteen in total came from that over and 65 off the last 36 balls as Waringstown reached 229 for six, a total way beyond their expectations after being surprisingly put in by Nigel Jones.
Thompson eventually fell in the final over for 80, having struck five fours and four sixes and faced just 63 balls. Kyle McCallan’s half-century was much slower but perhaps just as important. He played second fiddle during Thompson’s blistering assault and the partnership of 122 appeared to have taken the game beyond the visitors.
Most observers felt 229 was plenty on a wearing pitch and that view looked vindicated as Phil Eaglestone, the left-arm seamer, first trapped Andrew Cowden lbw and lured Getkate into a reckless hook shot.
With Jason van der Merwe taken at slip and Nieuwoudt caught at mid-wicket, CSNI were 59 for four and in trouble.
However, it developed into a riveting run chase as Regan West, the left-hander, boldly took on the Waringstown spinners who didn’t quite find the right length. While he and Nigel Jones were adding 68 for the fifth wicket they had taken CSNI to the point where the home side were desperately in need of a breakthrough.
They got it when Jones was lbw to McCallan and after being reprieved at long-off, West gave a sharp return catch to Gary Kidd (4-44). He had made 77 from 108 balls, including eight fours and two sixes.
CSNI refused to lie down, Chris McMorran making a belligerent 30 and Charlie Beverland pulling Thompson for two sixes before lobbing softly to cover in the crucial 42nd over.
The last four wickets fell for 14 runs to leave Waringstown winners by a flattering 43 runs. An enthralling game had been much closer than that.