Donemana set the pace but pack closing in
DONEMANA SET THE PACE BUT PACK CLOSING IN
After a frantic weekend on the local cricket scene it was Donemana who emerged on Sunday evening with their 100% record intact and their hopes of another North West senior title still very much on course. Richard Kee's side was nowhere near as commanding as they had been at the Hunter Grounds 24 hours earlier but the scrap in the Holm team was just enough to edge past a competitive Fox Lodge on this occasion. Donemana seemed in control early on as despite a half century from Brian Allen and 41 from Wajihuddin they were keeping the visitors at arm's length. Towards the end of the innings however Dean McCarter found his scoring touch and he played some attacking shots in his 56 as the Foxies posted a competitive 209. Junior McBrine bowled superbly again to finish with 4 for 34 while William McClintock, no doubt being groomed to help cover Andy McBrine's trip to Australia also claimed 4 wickets.
Donemana's reply struggled to get going if truth be told but they kept doing enough to stay in touch, Ricky Lee Dougherty's 39 the best of the top half. Wickets from Jonny Robinson and Gareth Heywood reigned the hosts back however and at 114 for 5 the unbeaten tag was on the line. As always however when Donemana need a helping hand there is usually someone ready and this time it was Dwayne McGarrigle. The big-hitting batsman took a real shine to Robinson and in the space of two overs blasted 5 deliveries from the Fox Lodge man into the trees as Donemana closed in. McGarrigle's cameo ended on 44 but by that time the league leaders were nearly there and able to close out a 3-wicket win.
Bready and Strabane lost their unbeaten starts on Saturday but both remained bang on the leaders' coat tails with good wins on Sunday. Bready were at Bonds Glen, a ground they came a cropper on last season and despite a bumpy ride again this time they had enough in hand to get back to winning ways. David Barr and David Rankin put on 83 for the first wicket as the senior cup holders started well with Barr in particularly good form. He hit 9 fours and 3 sixes in a knock of 74 and even when that pair had departed, Mark Olphert ensured there was no let up in the tempo with a typically aggressive half century. The middle and lower order continues to look somewhat vulnerable in David Scanlon's side however and from 200 for 4 they were all out for 228, David Robinson and Kyle Moore claiming 3 wickets each and Colin Hall two.
The batting order continues to yield similar problems at Bonds Glen and without skipper Richard Hepburn for the second successive game they looked heavily reliant on Gihan Dilruk. To be fair to him the Sri Lankan didn't let them down either, 6 fours and 6 sixes in his entertaining 81 that should have been the catalyst for a fightback but the support wasn't there. Only Hall with 30 found the wherewithal to tough it out as the spinners proved very difficult to handle. Sabir Ali's 8 overs yielded 2 wickets for just 7 runs and Marc Fleming's 3 for 28 proved solid back up. There were three as well for Ian Young, albeit altogether more expensive while skipper Scanlon also picked up 2 in a 57-run win.
Strabane had a tougher looking ask as they hosted current champions Brigade; the Red Caps fielding without the injured Mark Roulston and Niall McDonnell who had asked not to be considered this weekend for personal reasons. They're set to lose professional Faisal Iqbal on Tuesday of this week as he leaves to team up with the Pakistan squad as well but if this is to be Iqbal's final game for Martin Deans' side then he certainly left an indelible mark. He and Mark Gillespie were in commanding form for the home team posting a 114-run partnership that was to be the telling contribution. Iqbal hit 4 fours and 2 sixes in his 63 while Gillespie played some superb shots in his 58 as he returned to form in style. Aaron Gillespie also played really well to finish unbeaten on 29 while Iftikhar Hussain, Dale Culbert and Johnny Thompson all picked up two wickets in Strabane's 235 for 7.
Brigade's reply began poorly as Ryan Patton and Phil Eaglestone did for Moran, McKeegan and Chappell pretty cheaply before a near 100-run partnership between Johnny Thompson and Iftikhar Hussain turned the match their way. Strabane were absolutely convinced that Patton had nailed Thompson to his stumps but got no sympathy from the officials however the partnership was to to be broken just at the right time for Strabane as Hussain was called through on a quick run and never made his ground, run out for 46. If that gave Strabane back the impetus then the killer blow was struck by that man Iqbal who finished his 6th over by having Trevor Britton and Chris Dixon removed in successive balls and then started his 7th by clean bowling Ryan Brace to complete his hat-trick. The last remaining resistance was Thompson who tried bravely to lodge a one-man rearguard action that was to see him caught by Mark Gillespie off Iqbal for 68 and that was that. A 40-run winning margin sees the former champions well in the hunt but there remains a couple of issues that need to be conquered if the title is to return to the Park. The first is to solve the McDonnell and Iqbal absences and the second is to find a way where at least one of the Gillespies is bowling regularly. Brigade's defence looks vulnerable on the back of a batting line up that lacks enough depth for the business end of the table and having been found out twice in their first four games hardly augurs well at this stage.
One side that does look ready to launch a title challenge is Coleraine and Ian McGregor's men had little difficulty in making it 2 from 2 in their busy weekend. The Bannsiders didn't have to be at their best either to see of a Glendermott side that probably spent an hour or two celebrating Saturday's shock win at home to Bready but they did what they had to do. Once again Roy Silva was the only run contributor of note, his 33 the best of Glendermott's disappointing 100 all out while Chinthaka Jayasinghe with 4 and Scott Campbell and Gareth Burns with 2 apiece did the damage with the ball. Special mention should go to Burns who is probably bowling as well as anyone at the minute without quite getting full reward but reports are that he is an excellent find. Coleraine's reply was anchored by another new man, Craig Averill who made 45 against his former team mates and under-19 player Campbell whose stock continues to grow at a rate of knots. The final margin was 8 wickets as Coleraine, Strabane and Bready form a queue behind the leaders.