Cricket Ireland move to avoid bowl-outs farce

The weather impacted on Friday's NCU Challenge Cup final at Comber
The weather impacted on Friday's NCU Challenge Cup final at Comber

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Never can that statement have been so appropriate as Cricket Ireland announced on Saturday morning that it was making last-minute provision for replays in both the RSA Irish Cup and National Cup semi-finals and thus avoid the farce of bowl-outs.

The ball started rolling on Friday at The Green during the NCU Challenge Cup final between Civil Service North and Waringstown.

One glance at smart-phone weather forecasts could leave even the biggest optimist in no doubt that apocalyptic conditions were on the way for the following day. There was no to be no escape for Comber and Dublin, the two venues for the Irish Cup semi-finals between North Down and The Hills, and Pembroke and holders Clontarf.

Andy Clement, the chairman of Cricket Ireland’s cricket committee and an innovative and forward-thinking administrator, quickly gauged that North Down would be in favour of scrapping the bowl-out option and later on Friday night, via their official twitter account, The Hills made clear they were in agreement.

During a series of early-morning phone calls on Saturday, Pembroke and Clontarf followed suit, but soon a problem emerged.

There was a suggestion that Dundrum, based in Leinster and one of the four National Cup semi-finalists, had no interest in a replay and favoured a bowl-out.

The potential was there to scupper the whole initiative because such an agreement had to be inclusive of both competitions.

Whatever happened next, the problem was overcome and by midday Cricket Ireland had released their official statement.

It said: “The Committee appreciate that this decision is unprecedented, but given that these premier competitions have reached a semi-final stage and in the best interest of the game, it was felt that with the final a number of weeks away there is a window to allow matches to be rescheduled.

“The Tournament Director will consult with all relevant parties over the next 48 hours to agree when this date will be.

“The Committee also appreciate that other clubs have lost in bowl outs in previous rounds and that the issue of whether replays should be allowed in both cups is an area that needs further discussion.

In the era of social media, the reaction was frenzied and mixed. The ‘rules are rules’ brigade were as vocal as they were painfully predictable but it was notable that Waringstown, the highest-profile victims of a bowl-out against Railway Union in the second round, were behind the decision, and not just because Alan Waite was one of the initiators along with Clement.

This correspondent wholeheartedly supports the committee’s move, it was unquestionably the right decision taken in the best interests of the game. On on the flip side, the move to scrap replays in the first place, with the exception of the first round, is impossible to defend. There are difficulties in a crowded fixture list but the Irish Cup’s status as the premier knockout club competition was undermined by events at The Lawn and Sandel Lodge earlier in the summer.

The cricket committee will surely move to restore replays in all rounds of the competition next year. Similar pleas for replays in the Ulster Cup and Ulster Shields however, will surely be more difficult to achieve.