Ballymena on brink of relegation after Carrick victory

@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 22nd August  2015'Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye''Waringstown  James Hall watches North Down Wicket keeper Peter Shields,  off Taimur Khan bowling during Saturday's NCU Premier League at The Green.'Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
@Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland- 22nd August 2015'Mandatory Credit -Brian Little/Presseye''Waringstown James Hall watches North Down Wicket keeper Peter Shields, off Taimur Khan bowling during Saturday's NCU Premier League at The Green.'Picture by Brian Little/Presseye
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It was only last month that Carrickfergus seemed dead and buried, an immediate return to Section One seemingly beckoning for Iain Parkhill’s luckless team.

But after Saturday’s stunning victory over Premier League champions Instonians, only the unlikeliest series of results can put the Middle Road club back in trouble.

They are level on 12 points with Lisburn, and four points ahead of Ballymena with two matches to play, and even a defeat at Eaton Park next Saturday wouldn’t be fatal given that Ballymena’s run-rate is comfortably the worst in the division.

Saturday’s performance was arguably even more impressive than the victory over CIYMS that reignited Carrick’s survival bid. They had to withstand a ferocious assault from James Shannon that appeared to have had handed the initiative to Instonians at the halfway stage.

For much of the Inst innings, the champions were on the back foot, behind the clock in terms of their scoring rate as Indrajeet Kamtetkar conceded just 16 in overs and Ryan Eagleson took three wickets. After professional Farhaad Iqbal had gone for 55, Inst lost three for 21 runs to slump to 159 for five.

Shannon has had a mixed season, mixing some low scores with typical brilliance and this was definitely in the latter category. His first half-century came from a sedate 65 balls, the next a small matter of 16, making it a 82-ball hundred.

The Ireland international barely bothered to deal in fours, he struck just two of them, as opposed to six maximums. Inst had barely looked like reaching 200, but suddenly they had 229 for seven to defend.

Carrickfergus immediately lost Michael Gilmour to Stephen Bunting for a duck but after Parkhill contributed 30, Johnny Ring continued his end-of-season renaissance with 60, including six fours and a six. Jamie Holmes went for 27 and although Eagleson and Kamtekar (40 from 50 balls) added 63 for the fifth wicket, the asking rate climbed to almost 10 runs an over.

With 39 needed from the last four and Kamtekar departing, Inst were probably favourites but Alex Haggan had other ideas, crashing two sixes and a four in an unbeaten 18 from just six balls. Eagleson was unbeaten on 47 from 49 balls, including two sixes and two fours, as Carrickfergus got home with three balls to spare.

That result leaves Ballymena staring down the barrel of relegation. They gave stumbling CIYMS an almighty scare at Belmont - the Challenge Cup winners were 29 for four and 51 for five chasing just 111 on a crumbling pitch - but Nigel Jones and James Cameron-Dow spared the home side’s blushes with an unbroken 62-run stand for the sixth wicket.

In Saturday’s other game Civil Service North Down beat Lisburn by six wickets. Allen Coulter took 4-19 and Regan West hit 63.