Superb half-centuries from Jason van der Merwe and Mark Adair helped CIYMS lift their third Gallagher Challenge Cup title in the space of five years with a 98-run victory over Instonians at The Green.
Batting first, CIYMS were in early trouble after Josh Manley fired through their top-order with John Matchett, Chris Dougherty and captain Nigel Jones all dismissed to leave the Belmont side reeling at 12-3.
It was up to van der Merwe and overseas professional Obus Pienaar (27) to rebuild on what was proving a very difficult wicket to bat on, and the pair did so in fine style, putting on 81 before the latter was caught off the bowling of Shane Getkate.
Van der Merwe (50), who scored 98* at the same venue three years ago to beat CIYMS for former club CSNI, reached another final half-century but was bowled soon after by Getkate.
That brought Ryan Hunter (39) and Mark Adair (63) together and the duo mixed power-hitting with strike rotation as they put on 110 for the sixth wicket and brought CIYMS to 207-6.
Adair’s innings contained four huge maximums and was a special knock under the cup final pressure when he walked to the crease at 97-5.
CIYMS would lose their last four wickets for 13 to fall to 220 all out, but it always felt like a superb score given the conditions.
Instonians started well and reached 89-3 with Oliver Metcalfe (48) the star while putting on a partnership of 62 with Getkate (26).
When Getkate was bowled by Jacob Mulder, Instonians began to falter and they were eventually dismissed for 122 with Jones (4-31) pick of the bowlers.
It was Jones’ fifth Challenge Cup final success and seventh final in total, and he says he doesn’t take these occasions for granted.
“I can’t take that for granted,” he said. “I feel lucky and privileged that I’ve been able to win five of them and they are a great day.”
Having won the toss and batted only to find his side in such a precarious position early on, you could forgive Jones for being nervous and worried, but he always had confidence in his batting line-up.
“I’ve been in a similar final here when we were 3/1, and we had to dig ourselves out of a hole and posted 200-odd in that game as well,” he said. “We talk often that because we bat deep, it shouldn’t be about wickets in 50-over matches - we should be able to bat the overs.
“We ended up getting bowled out there but you knew it was about partnerships and we didn’t panic.”
Jones paid tribute to van der Merwe, who absorbed the early pressure brilliantly and posted a crucial score which came from 78 balls and included five boundaries.
“He was brilliant,” he said. “Van der Merwe could relax into it having Obus there with him and he has been brilliant for us over the last three or four weeks.
“He has continued his great form from the Twenty20 final where he scored 80.
“He was crucial again today getting 50 and then Mark came in and didn’t go for the big shot too early.
“He assessed the conditions and between VDM and ‘Sparky’, it was quality.”
Instonians captain Andrew White’s 10th Challenge Cup final ended in defeat, and although his side weren’t able to convert from a couple of positive positions, says his squad should all be proud of their run.
“They have all their bases covered,” he said of CIYMS. “In those conditions, if you aren’t taking the positive option you’re going to come undone.
“I’m proud of the guys for getting to the final.
“We came the hard way by beating North Down, Waringstown and Muckamore and played some good cricket to get here.
“It’s disappointing not to finish the job, but it’s a young side and there’ll be plenty more finals.”
Metcalfe, along with James Hunter, only arrived at the ground minutes before the game started after playing for Ireland U19’s in the Netherlands during the week, and White says he is a young player that continues to improve.
“You could see from his strokes that he has the talent,” he said. “He’s still learning the trade of opening the batting and is by no means the finished article, but we see an improvement year on year.
“For him to come out to bat the way he did was encouraging and it won’t be his last final.”
After last Friday’s Twenty20 Cup triumph, CIYMS have now collected two trophies so far this season, but Jones isn’t content on settling with that.
“I know the boys are ecstatic and we are 2/2 now in finals.
“We need to celebrate and enjoy this success tonight and then start again.”