Perfect season for Coleraine in Intermediate League
Coleraine 2nd XI complete a perfect season
In a season where the headlines have been taken by the most closely fought League races in Senior 1 and Senior 2 for years, the remarkable feat of Coleraine 2nd XI may have slipped under the radar.
They managed to complete a perfect season which saw them win the league and cup double in Intermediate 3.
Coleraine Cricket Club were handed a reprieve last year when their 1st XI were reinstated into Senior 1 after the unfortunate folding of Killymallaght and the club were determined to make the most of it. The acquisition of Ian McGregor and Stephen Dunn along with the blooding of youngsters Stephen Harper, Scott Campbell, Paul and Andrew Douglas and Rishi Chopra has seen Coleraine 1st XI consolidate their place comfortably in Senior 1.
However in order for players down the club to improve it was vital that Coleraine 2nd XI achieved promotion into Intermediate 2 and even aim to play in Intermediate 1.
Under the leadership of Nigel Barr, Coleraine managed not only to gain promotion but did it by winning the league with 14 wins out of 14. With a wealth of players to chose from the Coleraine Cricket Club policy of no player playing for more than one team in any weekend paid dividends for Coleraine 2nds as they played a settled side for most of the season with 9 players playing in 11 or more of the 14 league games.
The inclusion of Vishal Chopra and Stephen McCartney added a bit more experience to the ranks and this helped a number of the younger players Alistair Handforth, Jonny Elder, Peter Wallace and JD Muller who undoubtedly will be pushing for a place in the Senior team next year.
The decison of Clive Edgar to move from Creevedonnell also provided the team with a stable wicket keeper. The success of the team was based on the ability of all players to contribute during the season and being able to win a number of games from seemingly losing positions.
There was no outstanding individual performer with the bat but Chopra, Elder, Handforth, Muller and Wallace all averaged above 25. The evergreen Bernard Findlay also produced some excellent innings, none more so when he won the home game against Eglinton seeing the team to a 145 target from 99 for 7.
The stability of the team also helped the bowling attack with 5 bowlers doing the bulk of the work. Alistair Handforth underlined his all-rounder status by taking 29 wickets. Skipper Barr also weighed in with 29 wickets at a miserly average of 11 and vice-captain David Doey chipped in with 25 wickets including a remarkable 7 for 8 against Fox Lodge.
The highlight of the season was probably the cup final against Bready where Coleraine certainly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. The strength in depth at Coleraine was evident as opening bowlers Handforth and Muller were unavailable due to holiday commitments and they were ably replaced by 3rd XI players with Adam McIllwaine in particular bowling well in the final.
Recovering from 60 for 5 to post 170 in the first innings thanks to a gritty 65 from Neil Morrison and bowling Bready out for 87 in the 4th innings with them chasing only 112 will live long in the memory of those who were involved.
Coleraine know they will face tougher challenges next year but with captain Nigel Barr reconsidering his decision to retire, he is confident that Coleraine can compete in Intermediate 2 and push towards promotion into Intermediate 1.