North Down continued their impressive start to the 2019 Robinson Services Premier League with a 16-run victory over Muckamore on Saturday.
Coming off a weekend of mixed cup fortunes, Ruhan Pretorius set the tone early after picking up the wicket of Aditya Adey and Peter Eakin had David Miller caught behind to reduce Muckamore to 16-2 after seven overs.
Jamie Rogers has looked in decent touch in recent weeks and continued on from his 47* against Bangor last weekend in rebuilding with overseas professional Fahad Iqbal, and the pair were looking fairly comfortable on what was a very tough wicket to score on.
They were setting a platform and had passed their fifty partnership when Iqbal was superbly ran out by Peter Davison and Rogers (44) followed shortly after when he was caught and bowled by Ryan Haire to reduce Muckamore to 90-4.
Another strong partnership was formed between Sam Gordon and Steve Lazars, with the latter in a particularly attacking mood with three big sixes, and it looked like they would surpass the 200 mark - which would have been a very competitive total in the conditions.
North Down were uncharacteristically shoddy in the field during the middle overs, dropping multiple chances off both batsmen and Lazars (35) should have been ran out comfortably before he got the chance to get going.
The home side re-found their composure when needed with Gordon (27) and Lazars both caught off the superb Pretorius, who claimed figures of 4-24 as Muckamore crumbled from 151-5 to 171 all out.
The South African has been on absolute fire at the start of this campaign, contributing in every match with either bat or ball, and North Down will be hoping that continues into Sunday’s Irish Senior Cup clash with CSNI.
It didn’t get any easier to bat for North Down in the second innings with openers Jamie Magowan and Nathan Burns both playing watchful knocks, ending the first powerplay on 22-0.
Former Muckamore man Magowan was first to go when wicketkeeper Miller took a brilliant catch off the bowling of Pavan Karthik, which brought Stuart Nelson to the crease.
Burns was starting to motor with the introduction of the slower bowlers, striking seven fours in his 38 before he was dismissed by Lazars, and Pretorius (20) made it look easy until he was caught in the deep to become Lazars’ second scalp.
Nelson was playing a crucial role and was providing a masterclass in how to bat at number three when chasing an achievable total, and his attitude and patience shown when his senior partners were falling at the other end was remarkable.
Peter Eakin (24*) walked to the crease with the score at 133-5 and it was his cameo from 16 balls that helped ease all the pressure and when the inevitable rain arrived, North Down had done enough to secure a 16-run win.
Nelson ended on 51* and he has already played a big role this season after receiving a permanent promotion up the order, showing just why captain Alistair Shields has entrusted him with such responsibility.
North Down sit third in the table after winning three of their four matches while Muckamore are in a precarious position now with five consecutive losses.
Neil Gill’s side have been playing well in cup competitions and can count themselves unlucky to still have zero points.
They have been hit with tight losses against Waringstown and Lisburn and would have been hopeful of getting more at Comber.
They must now dust themselves off for Saturday’s Gallagher Challenge Cup quarter-final against Templepatrick, where they will be hoping to take another step towards their first final since 1972 and get back to winning ways.”