Saturday felt like a defining day in the NCU Premier League title race. Well at least certainly did for Waringstown, up until then the leaders and perhaps favourites in many people’s minds.
The manner of their scarcely believable 12-run defeat to Civil Service North at Stormont will evoke uncomfortable memories of the spectacular way the villagers imploded in the closing stages of both the 2012 and 2015 title races.
Waringstown were 40 without loss in the ninth over chasing a paltry 118 to beat a Civil Service North team, who by their own admission, were rapidly losing interest in a match that seemed all but lost.
What followed was one of the great batting collapses of the modern era. James Hall, already dropped three times, opened the floodgates as he was bowled aiming a booming drive off his long-time nemesis Allen Coulter (3-34).
Waringstown seemingly thought they already had the match won and Coulter and Mark Adair sensed the complacency and they capitalised with two brilliant spells of bowling on a sporty pitch.
David Dawson, too high in the batting order at five, summed up Waringstown’s thoughtlessness, running almost halfway down the pitch without looking where the ball was and then barely making an effort to regain his ground.
Adam Dennison, with three fours and a six in his 25, briefly threatened but when he was sixth man out, lbw to Adair (3-48), you knew what was coming.
Right until the end, Waringstown batted like Australia, pushing hard at the ball outside off-stump when they needed less than one run an over to win. It just about summed everything up that in between taking two wickets in five balls, the erratic Shane Getkate also bowled seven wides. All Waringstown had to do was leave the ball and they would have won. They couldn’t even manage that.
Getkate was also involved in another decisive moment earlier in the game. On two, he was reprieved by Dawson at mid-off, the fielder leaving a catch to captain Lee Nelson who was back-pedalling from cover. That mistake cost 20 runs and although Phil Eaglestone took five for 26, Waringstown had suffered a catastrophic loss.
The result would have been cheered by Instonians, who thrashed Ballymena by eight wickets, North Down, who hammered Carrickfergus and CIYMS, the title favourites.
Rassie van der Dussen struck 97 from just 82 balls, including nine fours and five sixes, against Lisburn at Belmont.
CI posted 242 for nine and off-spinner Trevor Britton continued his remarkable run of form by taking six for 16 as Lisburn were dismissed for just 65.
Next weekend is looming as perhaps the most important of the season. CI face Instonians and North Down, their most likely challengers. Win both games and they will be perilously close to the treble of Twenty20 Cup, Challenge Cup and Premier League.