Civil Service North and holders Waringstown will contest the Ulster Bank NCU Challenge Cup final for the second time in four seasons on Friday week.
The Stormont side survived a real scare before beating Section One Downpatrick by six wickets with 10 balls to spare last night while the villagers cruised to an eight-wicket victory over CIYMS.
It was surprisingly easy for Waringstown at Belmont where CI were on the back foot early thanks to the dismissal of South African professional Rassie van der Dussen in just the fifth over.
The opening batsmen was confused by a slower ball from his opposite number Shaheen Khan which he lost above the sightscreen. With van der Dussen ducking and perhaps expecting a beamer he was struck plumb in front and given out lbw.
Waringstown’s seamers weren’t at their best but it was 45 for two in the 10th over when Chris Dougherty called for a run to point and left partner Steven Clarke stranded as Greg Thompson, arguably the finest fielder in the league, threw over the stumps and wicketkeeper Jonathan Bushe did the rest.
From there CI wilted in the face of Waringstown’s spin attack. Dougherty fell to the superb Gary Kidd for 24 and Nathan Burns and John Matchett were dismissed cheaply to leave the home side 81 for five in the 29th over.
The most thrilling cricket of the day came as Nathan Waller launched a blistering counter-attack. He began the 31st over by launching Lee Nelson for successive sixes and then a four and at the start of the power-play James Hall’s first two balls went for four and another towering six.
Waller’s partnership with Trevor Britton for the sixth wicket was 46 of which Britton’s contribution was just two, but disaster struck in the 38th over. Waller had just pierced the narrowest of gaps between two fielders on the leg side to collect a boundary behind square off Greg Thompson (3-17) but trying to repeat the trick he was well caught by a diving James McCollum. He had made 56 from 64 balls, including four fours and four sixes but with him effectively went CI’s hopes of reaching the final.
From 127 for five they could limp to 155 for nine on a pitch described by van der Dussen as the best he had seen at Belmont this summer. Kidd’s figures of two for 11 off 10 overs were enough to earn him the man-of-the-match award.
Waringstown’s young batsmen made short work of the target, with McCollum playing some superb shots, particularly through the on side, on his way to 55 from 77 balls. He struck eight boundaries. Adam Dennison was unbeaten on 58 from 71, hitting two fours and belying his slight frame with four sixes.
It was far from routine for CSNI as they slumped to 38 for three in the 12th over chasing Downpatrick’s 186 as Johnny Wheeler took two for 16.
However, an 81-run stand for the fourth wicket between professional Griffin Nieuwoudt (44) and opener Andrew Cowden put CSNI back in charge. The home side wobbled after Nieuwoudt departed and the asking rate reached six-runs-per-over.
Nigel Jones looked in discomfort batting with a hamstring strain but he struck an unbeaten 39 from 36 balls as unbroken stand of 69 took CSNI home in the penultimate over. Cowden was unbeaten on 62 from 129 balls, having struck four fours.