Instonians kept the NCU Premier League title race alive with the most dramatic of one-wicket victories over Waringstown at The Lawn last night.
In a low-scoring thriller, with the home team requiring a victory to become champions, the game went right to the final over with last pair Andrew Forbes and Lewis McNamara at the crease.
Instonians’ ninth wicket had fallen with the score still at 149, six short of victory. As the tension reached fever pitch, in the penultimate over Forbes edged Lee Nelson to third man and crucially the ball went under the body of the diving James Mitchell and trickled for four.
That left Inst needing two from the final six balls with Greg Thompson to bowl. Next came the most important moment of the game if not the season. McNamara scooped the ball into the air towards Nelson but with a catch beckoning he lost his footing on a slippery surface and the pair were able to scramble a crucial single.
Forbes then hit another single from the next ball to prompt a pitch invasion from a number of his team-mates. Inst, who play a hugely understrength Lisburn in their penultimate league match this Thursday night, now have the momentum with the sides still to meet again next weekend.
Two victories for Inst will secure the title and ensure a heartbreaking end to the season for Waringstown, who have already lost in both the Challenge Cup and Ulster Cup finals.
In truth Inst made heavy weather of what should have been a routine run chase on a blameless pitch. Captain Neil Russell was caught at mid-off, Nicholai Smith scooped to cover and then Eric Layard was run out in a mix-up with Imad Wasim, the professional.
Wasim and Andrew White looked in no trouble until the former fell to a contentious lbw decision and when Jordan McClurkin followed Inst were in trouble on 69 for five.
However, the game’s most important partnership was the 51 for the sixth wicket between White (50 from 95 balls) and Ben Wylie (28). Kyle McCallan was convinced he had White caught behind when the score was still 95 but he did eventually fall 25 runs later, caught at slip off Phil Eaglestone (2-24).
After batting beautifully Wylie lost his nerve and fell attempting an ambitious slog sweep but in the dying moments big hits from Stephen Bunting and then Zach Rushe dragged Inst ever closer to the line.
Waringstown will reflect on their poor batting display but they were on the back foot from the first over of the day as James Hall gave square leg catching practice off Bunting. James McCollum went to the impressive Wylie in the next over and Adam Dennison fell to leave it 24 for three.
Nelson, who struck seven boundaries in his 52 from 99 balls, and McCallan added 84 for the fourth wicket but just as they started to accelerate Nelson and then Thompson fell in the same over to Wasim.
McCallan (60) could not quite see the villagers through to what would have been a defendable 170 with the excellent Rushe (3-25) bowling well for the second day in succession.
The teams will now meet next weekend with Wasim returning home to Pakistan on Pakistan. James Shannon will also aim to play after his knee injury suffered with the Northern Knights.