First blood of 2017 goes to Waringstown as they retained the Lagan Valley Steels T20 Cup with a convincing 26-run victory over North Down in front of a big crowd at The Lawn on Sunday.
Greg Thompson lifted his first trophy as captain for the villagers but the triumph was built around an imperious man-of-the-match winning innings from James Hall.
A year after Thompson himself struck a century to help Waringstown overcome Lisburn, it was Hall’s turn to reach three figures with a stunning unbeaten 101 from just 54 balls in a formidable total of 194 for four.
That was ultimately too much for North Down who, inspired by a blistering 59 from 39 balls from professional Ruhan Pretorius against his former club, gave the villagers some nervy moments before impressive bowling from Gary Kidd and Shaheen Khan proved decisive.
It was an engaging final from the opening over with Adam Dennison bowled by Pretorius without scoring and it was 19-2 when Lee Nelson drove Marty Moreland to Pretorius.
Any thoughts that North Down might seize the initiative were quickly put to bed as Hall and Khan launched a blistering counter-attack. Hall’s first boundary was an inside edge off Pretorius but that was probably the last false shot he played.
His first six - there were eight more to follow - was firmly planted over the mid-wicket boundary off Moreland in the fifth over and in the next Peter Davison took a mauling from Khan, the South African’s first six cleared the car park, the next was over the pavilion.
Khan’s innings should not be underestimated, his 33 off 13 balls provided crucial momentum as he and Hall added 51 in just 22 balls.
Hall reached his 50 off 30 balls and with seven overs left Waringstown were 114 for three and that’s when the fireworks really started. In company with Thompson, the pair put on 113 from 71 balls.
Thompson contributed 40 off 35 balls, but this was Hall’s day; a shot off the back foot in the 19th over off Pretorius was sumptuous, three balls later he pulled Peter Eakin over mid-wicket for a ninth maximum to bring up three figures.
North Down came out of the traps quickly but their momentum stalled as Khan took crucial wickets and on a day when almost everyone went around the park, Kidd’s four overs remarkably went for just 15.
While Pretorius was there, North Down were still in it but once Kyle McCallan tempted him into miscuing in the 16th over the game was as good as over.
On another day Khan would have had man-of-the-match claims, backing up his 33 with 4-31 but this was Hall at his Sunday best with a 15th club century.
Armagh brought home the T20 trophy thanks to inspired bowling by Jarred Barnes as he took 3-5 off four overs. It was a superb all-round effort from Armagh and Woodvale never looked in the game.
Neil Gelston set the platform before Barnes struck 30 not out to seal a five-wicket triumph.