Shannon shows his class for the champions

A delivery from Mansoor Amjad, of Civil Service
A delivery from Mansoor Amjad, of Civil Service

For a fleeting moment at Wallace Park on Saturday, an upset was in the offing.

Chasing a modest 169 to win, Premier League champions Instonians were 28 for three in the ninth over with Neil Russell, Eric Layard and Nikolai Smith all back in the pavilion.

David Simpson, the Lisburn captain, had taken two of those wickets, but just as he and his young team dared to dream, James Shannon and Andrew White slammed the door emphatically in their faces.

Shannon was the imperious batsman of old, standing up straight and delivering a display of timing that belied a slow pitch.

While White’s unbeaten 51 took all of 93 balls, and contained just three boundaries, Shannon was all swagger and aggression, making 87 not out from just 96. He struck nine fours and two sixes, including a maximum that sailed over long-on to secure a seven-wicket victory.

Lisburn at least fought hard with the bat, Richard Simpson batting impressively for 48 and professional Darryl Brown adding 41.

But Eugene Moleon bowled his 10 overs for just 14 and last year’s leading wicket-taker Zach Rushe took two for 25 as Lisburn slumped to 168 for seven.

North Down’s cricketing obituary has been written by a few people over the winter, but they delivered a batting performance on Saturday that suggested big totals should be within their reach this summer.

Without new professional Pieter Malan, who has yet to arrive from South Africa, the Comber side piled up 301 for six against Ballymena.

On a day when Ryan Haire made a first-ball duck on his debut for Muckamore against Derriaghy, Daniel Graham and Andrew Sutherland piled up a 149-run opening stand for the first wicket.

Graham, who has long threatened to become the real deal at senior level, struck 12 fours and two sixes in a top score of 90 at exactly a run-a-ball. Sutherland made a more sedate 57 from 85 but Taimur Khan struck 49 from just 45 balls as 81 came from the last seven overs.

Ballymena certainly made a real fist of the run chase. They were struggling on 67 for three but professional Azeem Ghuman and Steve Lazars threatened to turn the game on its head during a 150-run partnership for the fourth wicket.

Lazars was very much the aggressor, striking 91 from just 84 balls including 10 fours and four sixes.

Ghuman made 73 from 97, hitting six fours, but once Lazars fell Ballymena’s challenge subsided and they closed 42 runs adrift on 254 for five. Marty Moreland, the North Down captain, claimed three for 54.

The other Premier League match at Middle Road between Carrickfergus and Waringstown was postponed after water got underneath the covers and flooded the pitch.

In Section One Muckamore beat Derriaghy after a stunning century from Craig Drummond.