Waringstown cruised into their third Irish Cup final in three years on Saturday after Dubliners Pembroke were swatted aside in a one-sided semi-final at The Lawn.
The villagers will face The Hills in the final at Bready next month, with Albert van der Merwe having inspired the Leinster side to what turned out to be a comprehensive win over Instonians at Milverton.
Lee Nelson produced probably his finest innings in several seasons at The Lawn, hitting Pembroke’s bowlers to all corners of the ground in an almost disdainful 84 from just 72 balls.
Waringstown were chasing just 188 for victory on a fine pitch, but Nelson was a man in a hurry, hitting 14 from the first four balls he faced, including a six that crashed into the sightscreen at long-off.
Nelson has been enjoying a modest season, but here was a throwback to how devastating he can be, attacking the bowling from ball one and unfurling a magnificent range of strokes. The pick were stroked delightfully through the covers, though perhaps the best of all after that towering early six was an on-drive past the bowler for four.
In the end the only regret was that he didn’t reach three figures, and he was blameless in that regard. After hitting 13 fours and two sixes, he was surely heading towards three figures only for Shaheen Khan to call him for a needlessly risky third run and Nelson narrowly failed to make his ground.
Not that it affected the final outcome, Waringstown passing their target with more than 17 overs to spare, Pembroke looking to have accepted the inevitable a long time before Khan completed the formalities with his unbeaten 31.
Pembroke were undoubtedly a disappointment with the ball, the highly-rated Josh Little carrying little of his usual menace despite having Adam Dennison caught behind.
In fact it was almost bewildering how Waringstown lost four wickets, with James Hall looking in imperious form until he dragged one to mid-wicket and then James McCollum was superbly taken down the leg side by wicketkeeper Lorcan Tucker from an innocuous delivery. Waringstown had been 67 from two after 10 overs and barely looked back as Nelson took to a barely threatening spin attack with relish. In a sign that Pembroke had long since accepted the inevitable, Little wasn’t even recalled to the attack.
Earlier in the day after Pembroke had opted to bat first, the impressive James Mitchell struck twice with the new ball before Andrew Balbirnie, the former Middlesex batsman, and his fellow Ireland international Lorcan Tucker rebuilt with a threatening stand of 68 for the third wicket.
Tucker was particularly easy on the eye, down the pitch to hit Mitchell for a maximum for just his second scoring shot, but the pair’s oddly frenetic running between the wickets always threatened to be an Achilles heel.
In the 21st over their latest mishap changed the course of the match inexorably. Somehow the pair ended up at the same end and although the throw came into the wrong end, Waringstown wicketkeeper Marcus McClean had the presence of mind to throw to the bowler’s end where Balbirnie was just out of his ground.
Two overs later and Pembroke were in all sorts of trouble. Gary Kidd, as he so often has his season, removed a big player, getting enough turn and bounce to take Tucker’s edge and he was well taken by McClean for 38.
Soon after Pembroke were 82 for five but to their credit the visitors didn’t fold, Ryan Hopkins and Theo Lawson adding 58 for the sixth wicket. Waringstown relied almost exclusively on spin in the closing overs and Pembroke never really broke the shackles.
Pembroke scraped to 187 for nine but never at any stage did it look like being anywhere near enough.