North West Warriors hold nerve to triumph in the last over against Northern Knights

Nick Larkin of the Northern Knights endures a near miss against Leinster Lightning
Nick Larkin of the Northern Knights endures a near miss against Leinster Lightning

With home advantage on Sunday in the Newstalk Twenty20 competition at Comber, the Northern Knights would have expected to end the day with at least one victory to their name.

But after losing the opening game to Leinster Lightning, it got worse for the home team with the North West Warriors holding their nerve - only just - to clinch a three-wicket victory in the second match.

When the Knights management reflect on a disastrous day on the pitch - off it a big crowd enjoyed a fine day’s entertainment - they can lay the blame squarely at the feet of the batsmen.

It started badly for the Knights - Chris Dougherty was bowled by Craig Young from the first ball of the match - and scarcely improved as they limped to just 121 for eight in 20 overs.

The Warriors were excellent with the ball but what was particularly surprising was the Knights lack of game management and apparent failure to read the pitch. The pitch was slow, the bounce low, but too many Knights batsmen played as if 160 or 170 was their aim when, in reality, 140 or even 130 would have been a winning score.

Nick Larkin completed a disappointing day on his home ground when he fell to Andy Britton and Nigel Jones’ attempt to take on the Warriors’ best fielder ended almost inevitably with Andy McBrine swooping from cover and hitting the only stump he could see.

At 23 for three the Knights were in trouble but James Shannon and Andrew White rebuilt with few alarms until Rishi Chopra and McBrine made crucial inroads.

White pulled Chopra (2-24) into the hands of deep mid-wicket in the ninth over and the teenage spinner from Coleraine also claimed Shannon (25), the Instonians’ batsman scooping a reverse sweep to short third man.

An over later Greg Thompson followed, caught at cover off a leading edge and at 82 for six the Knights were trouble. They surely didn’t help themselves by holding back Shane Getkate to number nine and in the closing two overs their fate was arguably sealed with seven runs coming from 12 balls.

Le Nelson remained unbeaten on 29 from 41 balls but the final over from Stuart Thompson went for just two, and how crucial that was in the final analysis.

Much as they did last week at Magheramason, David Rankin and Stuart Thompson, the Warriors openers, started stylishly, Rankin announcing himself in the second over by lofting James Cameron-Dow gloriously over long-on for six.

While the Knights innings had been dogged by hesitancy, the Warriors pair attack with confidence, with Thompson smashing White for two maximums in his first over.

The opening stand was 49 in 6.5 overs and the Warriors were apparently in cruise control. But Jones (2-10) and Greg Thompson (3-10) were the Knights best bowlers as the Warriors threw a succession of wickets away.

When Ricky-Lee Dougherty was the seventh man out from the last ball of the 18th over with 14 still needed, it was back in the melting pot. But Johnny Thompson held his nerve, launching a crucial maximum off Cameron-Dow in the penultimate over before the winning boundary off Peter Eakin through the covers with four balls to spare.