CIYMS didn’t just reach the semi-finals of the NCU Challenge Cup by beating North Down in a thrilling tie at The Green on Saturday, they served an ominous notice to the rest of the Premier League.
The sceptics claimed that unless at least one of Rassie van der Dussen, captain Chris Dougherty, Nigel Jones or Johnny Thompson went big with the bat, CI wouldn’t be capable of defeating one of their big rivals.
Well that particular argument is out the window after Dougherty’s team held their nerve as a gallant Peter Shields, the veteran North Down wicketkeeper-batsman, came within 13 runs of an unlikely victory in a match twice halted by rain.
Traditionally rain interruptions in the second half of a match aid the chasing side under Duckworth-Lewis, but on this occasion the weather was one of the main factors in North Down’s demise.
First when Peter Eakin and Ross Ewing, the young batsmen, were together in an enterprising fifth-wicket stand of39, North Down at one stage got to within one run of CI’s total on Duckworth-Lewis as ominous clouds hung over Comber.
But as the rain started Eakin panicked. Worried that the deluge may finish play for good, he attempt a slog across the line against James Cameron-Dow and was bowled for 24. A 40-minute interruption followed and had Eakin not been dismissed, North Down’s target would have been reduce by around 10 runs on Duckworth-Lewis.
Even then they almost got home as after Ewing fell for 40 after hitting three fours and two sixes, Shields and Jacob Mulder added 37 for the eighth wicket. When they needed 27 from four overs, North Down had become favourites for the first time.
But the tide turned yet again when Mulder charged Trevor Britton and edged behind for 17 and then the rain forced Shields’ hand. As another deluge started and North Down 13 runs behind on D/L he walked across his stumps and was bowled by Thompson for 40.
North Down will rue the rain, some wasteful bowling and their failure to captalise on an an enterprising start from Daniel Graham. The opener struck 62 from just 58 balls, including eight fours and two sixes, before he became the first of three victims for the excellent Jones (3-27).
The former CSNI captain contributed the game’s most decisive moment, a fine over to Pieter Malan, the North Down professional, culminating in a beautiful delivery that held its line and took the South African’s outside edge.
The other factor was North Down’s prolifigacy with the ball. They conceded 40 extras, including an unforgivable 25 wides. CI by contrast leaked just 13 extras.
Earlier, CI slumped from 97 for one to 106 for four, and then to 189 for six, but each time North Down allowed them an escape route. Nathan Burns played the decisive innings, hitting six fours and reaching his half-century in exactly 50 balls.
Young guns Aaron Johnston (33) and Jack Beattie (15) both made contributions and that is the most pleasing change in CI. They still rely on the big names but perhaps not quite as much.