Downpatrick kept the pressure on Lisburn at the top of the Section One table with a convincing seven wicket win at Laurelvale on Saturday.
Having lost the toss and told to field first, Downpatrick got off to the perfect start when Ross Boultwood bowled Philip Weir in the first over, and then followed it up with two further dismissals, including captain David Sinton, to leave Laurelvale 7-3 in the third over.
The home side knew it would be an uphill task against the visitors who are joint-top with Lisburn, who will be looking to go back to the Premier League at the first time of asking after they were relegated last season.
Boultwood continued to bowl with pace and great accuracy, and when opener Mark Thornbury was bowled for six to become his fourth victim, Laurelvale were 24-4 and in serious trouble, with any sort of respectable score looking unlikely.
That brought Daryl Henry to the crease, and alongside youngster Adam Speers the pair began to build a partnership together, with the latter showing good nerve and skill to deal with the intimidating bowling of Downpatrick’s opening duo, and did well to last against some good short bowling.
Henry was looking in fine touch, striking a few crisp boundaries, with Speers happy to rotate strike to his more aggressive partner.
Speers’ stand was brought to an end for 23 off the bowling of spinner Thomas Magowan, with a sharp catch at short leg removing him.
When Henry was also caught for 27, it left Laurelvale 87-6, and a lot of credit has to be given to the middle order who continued to thrive and went about trying to give their bowlers some sort of target to defend after an early collapse.
Lee Edgar opened his account with a six onto the road, and batted well for his 23, but was struggling to find a partner to stick around with him. That was until Michael Burns strode to the crease at number 10, with 26 of his 35 runs coming from boundaries, including a huge straight six, before he was caught trying to replicate it with the very next ball.
It left Laurelvale all out for 139, with Boultwood ending with figures of 4-16 off his 10 overs and Magowan 4-31 from his spell. It was never likely to be enough despite an impressive fight back, and Downpatrick surely enough sealed a comfortable win, with Boutlwood rounding off a fantastic all-round performance, striking 47 in the chase.
Mullan also contributed 45, while Ryan Smyth, who hit a century last week in a win over Lurgan, finished 25*.
It leaves Downpatrick with seven wins from their nine matches, with Lisburn ahead on net run-rate.
If Boultwood can continue to fire with the ball like he did on Saturday, Downpatrick will fancy their chances of promotion.
He is ably supported by the likes of Yeates, Magowan and Smyth, with their batting also having a real look of strength and depth for this season. They won eight of their 18 league fixtures last season, so it shows the improvements they have made for the 2018 campaign that they have almost bettered that record by the start of July.
Downpatrick travel to Woodvale next weekend. Eight points separates Lisburn at the top and Derriaghy in sixth, and with nine games left to go, it is all to play for.