Brigade claim NW Senior Cup
BRIGADE CLAIM SENIOR CUP AFTER KEENLY CONTESTED WEEKEND
The weather tried its best to drag the Northern Bank North West senior cup final into a third day but persistence finally paid off as Brigade eased to a comfortable 97 run success in front of a decent crowd at Eglinton on Saturday evening.
To be honest it will have come as a blessed relief to everyone that the game was finished on schedule following the announcement that if a third day was to be required, Sunday would be by-passed and the match continued on Monday evening.
As it was, Brigade took a 20-run lead into the second innings having made 268 for 7 in their first 50 overs. Chris Dougherty and Niall McDonnell took full advantage of some very indifferent bowling to post a century opening partnership; the former hitting a half century off 62 balls and containing 7 fours. McDonnell wasnít long in following suit but having just reached his own 50 the former Strabane player got a little too adventurous and was lured out of his crease by Mark Gillespie and stumped by Paul McNamee. That was Brigadeís first wicket down on 127 and as is often the case the second wasnít far behind.
Strabane were back in the match shortly afterwards as Gillespie again did the damage, the leg spinner having Dougherty caught behind by McNamee for 65 with the score on 136. Richard Wylie didnít last long as he skied one to Martin Deans soon after to leave Mark Simpsonís team 154 for 3 before a solid partnership between Iftikhar Hussein and Johnny Thompson put them back in control.
That pair took the score to 211 before Hussein planted one of several full tosses straight to Mark Gillespie and was gone for 36 but Gareth McKeegan then added a quick 25 before he and Mattie Moran were both clean bowled in the same Martin Deans over to leave Brigade on 251 for 6. Painfully for Strabane, Brigade skipper Mark Simpson then added a couple of boundaries at the death as his side closed on an impressive 268 for 7.
Strabaneís task looked big enough to begin with but when Mark Simpson snapped up the wickets of opening batsmen Ryan Gallagher and Kevin Martinís to leave them reeling on 12 for 2 few would have given them much chance.
Many observers felt before the game that the Strabane trio of Jonathan Beukes, Peter Gillespie and Mark Gillespie would be pivotal to their sideís chances of lifting the cup and the first two then combined to breathe new life into their efforts.
Brigade tried to unsettle the pair by bringing Iftikhar Hussein and Trevor Britton into the attack and beginning to find scoring a lot harder, Beukes lost his concentration momentarily. The South African was tempted outside his lines by Trevor Britton and Gareth McKeegan completed a very sharp stumping to leave Strabane on 93 for 3.
Up to that point the batting side had looked comfortable but their professional was gone for 38 that included 5 fours and a six. Gillespie was still there though and was joined by his brother Mark as Strabane tried to reduce the deficit. The former reached his 50 in 66 balls including 5 fours and a six and the two brothers then batted right through until light was called on day one with Strabane 176 for 3 after 40 overs. Peter had moved on to 75 not out and Mark 33 not out and the Tyrone side left Eglinton on Friday night feeling an awful lot better about their chances.
Day 2 then got underway an hour after the scheduled start time with the Tyrone men 92 runs behind but with 10 overs and 7 wickets of their first innings still to bat and Peter Gillespie immediately signalled his intention to cut that deficit straight away as he blasted Johnny Thompsonís first ball of the day to the boundary rope for 4.
That set the tone for the next few overs as the brothers took on Brigadeís attack. Mark brought up his 50 in typically aggressive fashion hitting 2 sixes and 5 fours and with those two together it looked as if Strabane might even emerge from the first innings with a lead.
The match turned again however when Johnny Thompson bowled Mark Gillespie for a very entertaining 65. Peter was still there of course and fittingly the former International then joined the elite band of players to score cup final centuries as he nursed his side to within striking distance of that 268.
Disappointingly for Strabane however, just when you would have expected them to accelerate, the lower middle order failed to push on and just 15 runs came off the final 4 overs. Defiantly, skipper Peter Gillespie stayed until the final ball but was selflessly run out trying to bring to bring the deficit below 20.
Mark Simpson claimed 3 for 62 and Johnny Thompson 2 for 42 but outside of the first 4 and last 4 overs, the batsmen were always in charge.
With a 20-run lead Brigadeís openers took to the field and Strabaneís bowlers, whilst still not clinical, were certainly a lot less accommodating early on. Niall McDonnell had made a half century against his former team mates in the first innings but with 23 to his name this time he skied one to Mark Gillespie and was gone.
The Beechgrove side was certainly finding runs harder to come by second time around but Chris Dougherty was patience personified as he helped lay a serious foundation for the Waterside men. Hussein too was in good touch and those two proceeded to post a 112-run second wicket partnership that gave Brigade the advantage.
The Pakistani was needlessly run out having just reached his 50 and that seemed to lift Strabane as they then picked up another quick couple. Dougherty soldiered on but when seeming set to post a century he gave a simple caught and bowled chance to Ryan Gallagher and was out for 83, a knock that included 9 fours and came off 97 balls.
That brought Gareth McKeegan to the middle and the wicket-keeper batsman made a very welcome return to form, bringing up his 50 with a huge straight six off Tommy Barr. McKeegan was stumped by McNamee soon after though, the third wicket of the day for Beukes his entertaining innings containing 3 fours and 3 sixes. Mattie Moran then upped the ante in the final few overs making an unbeaten 39 as Brigade finished on 270 for 7, with Jonathan Beukes doing best with the ball returning figures of 4 for 51.
All of that meant that Strabane needed 291 to lift the cup, a tall order by any standards and once again an early wicket hampered progress as Ryan Gallagher was caught in the attacking slip cordon by Trevor Britton in Johnny Thompsonís first over.
That brought professional Jonathan Beukes back to the middle but having set himself steadily the South African inexplicably left one from Mark Simpson that knocked over his off stump as Strabane slumped to 27 for 2 in the 6th over.
Peter Gillespie was the man responsible for getting Strabane back into the game in the first innings but it wasnít to be a double as he fell to an excellent catch by McDonnell having made 21 and the curtain started to fall soon after when Mark went in the exact same fashion for just 3.
That left the scoreboard reading 72 for 4 by which stage 291 was a million miles away. Andy Lynch managed a few lofty blows before being stumped off the bowling of Trevor Britton and the former Bready man repeated the dose later in the over to get rid of Ciaran Patton. Britton had a few choice words for Lynch at the end of his cameo but that was probably as much to do with having gone for a few as anything else.
At 107 for 6 the ribbons were going on the cup and despite Kevin Martin making an excellent 82, with 9 fours and a six in there, the game petered out in a manner unbecoming of such a good couple of days.
Over the two inningsí Brigade were thoroughly worthy winners but itís not hard to argue that it was a big toss to win. Strabane did exceptionally well to keep the game alive as long as they did but their bowling was light, far too light to make a difference.
The Man of the Match adjudicator Billy Henderson plumped for Gareth McKeegan ahead of Chris Dougherty, with worthy mentions also for Iftikhar Hussain, Kevin Martin and first innings centurion Peter Gillespie.
Both sides can now turn their attention to a thrilling title race, after the party at Beechgrove has ended of course.
Northern Bank Senior Cup Final
At Eglinton, Brigade beat Strabane by 97 runs
Brigade 1st innings 268/7 (C Dougherty 65, N McDonnell 51, J Thompson 37, I Hussain 36, G McKeegan 25, R Gallagher 2-42, M Gillespie 2-47, M Deans 2-54)
Brigade 2nd innings 270/7 (C Dougherty 83, G McKeegan 53, I Hussain 50, M Moran 40*,N McDonnell 23, J Beukes 4-51)
Strabane 1st innings 248/8 (P Gillespie 103, M Gillespie 65, J Beukes 38, M Simpson 3-62, J Thompson 2-42).
Strabane 2nd innings 193/10 (43 overs, K Martin 82, P Gillespie 21, A Lynch 21, M Simpson 4-34, I Hussain 2-14, J Thompson 2-58, T Britton 2-66).