Three-horse race at top of NCU Premier League

Waringstown captain Lee Nelson batted his way to a superb 126
Waringstown captain Lee Nelson batted his way to a superb 126

The Ulster Bank NCU Premier League title battle is surely now a three-horse race.

CIYMS, the 2012 champions, were the latest horse to fall, a 144-run thrashing by Waringstown at The Lawn on Saturday effectively ending their already fading hopes. Like North Down, CI have lost four times and while the league winners in the last two seasons have both finished with four defeats, it would take the unlikeliest sequence of end-of-season results to hand a reprieve to either

Waringstown retain an eight-point lead with Civil Service North, six-wicket winners over Ballymena at Stormont and the only team to have beaten the villagers in 50-over cricket this season, in second.

The teams meet in a mouth-watering clash at The Lawn this Saturday when a CSNI win would blow the race wide open or a Waringstown win would finish off Nigel Jones’ hopes of ay league and cup double.

CI looked devoid of belief at The Lawn as the departure of professional Rassie van der Dussen, the professional, left not so much a hole as a chasm. Their plight was sharply in focus in the field. While the spinners Jacob Mulder and Trevor Britton both bowled fine spells, they were undermined by occasionally comical fielding.

James Hall and James McCollum were stuck at the same end in the fifth over but the bowler Stephen Dunn couldn’t collect the throw and McCollum was reprieved. He went on to make 65.

The chances afforded to Lee Nelson when he was 34 and 36, both spurned by the sub fielder, were even more costly as the Waringstown captain plundered his highest senior score of 126.

He and McCollum added 104 for the third wicket though there was a pedestrian period between the 25th and 35th overs when just 29 runs were scored.

At 128 for two after 35 overs, the villagers were behind the eight-ball but Nelson shook off the lethargy with an assault on Mulder and Greg Thompson’s arrival in the 39th over sparked an upping of the ante, as it so often does.

Thompson, dropped at point when he was just 12, went to smash 35 from just 26 balls, including two fours and two sixes.

CI just couldn’t bowl to Nelson in the latter overs, his 126 taking just 123 balls and containing 10 fours and four sixes. With the last 15 overs yielding 138 runs, Waringstown had posted a daunting 273 for five.

Even allowing for Waringstown’s depleted seam attack, the odds on CI chasing down a target of 274 were long in the extreme and they seemed to know it.

Chris Dougherty and John Matchett began brightly before an inexplicable two-over spell. Matchett missed a straight one from James Mitchell and then Dougherty gave Kyle McCallan the first of three wickets with a horrible cross-bat slog.

With Jeremy Bray dragging his foot out of his ground in the same over and Jonathan Bushe completing the stumping, CI were 26 for three and all but out of contention.

The run-out of Steven Clarke in a farcical mix-up with Nathan Waller made it 64 for four and it was 85 for five when the latter was held just inches from the boundary line by Adam Dennison off Thompson. Sam Wilson, the teenager, claimed his first three senior wickets and CI, 129 all out, had been humiliated.