Instonians crush North Down
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
INSTONIANS just love playing North Down in cup finals. For the third time in four years Eugene Moleon’s team won the big match and, as in 2009, they beat the Comber side on their own ground, to win the NCU’s Challenge Cup for the only the third time.
It was not the usual free-scoring pitch at The Green but no-one would have known when James Shannon and Andrew White were hurtling Instonians to their victory target of 183. The last 63 runs came in just five overs with Shannon just failing by inches to bring up his century with the winning hit. He finished 99 not out with 11 fours and five sixes.
As Shannon admitted afterwards, because of a shoulder injury, he had not picked up a bat since the semi final win at Muckamore 12 days earlier, until he went into the nets for a final practice on Thursday. It did not go well.
“It wasn’t coming off too good so it was nice to get that out of the way early and work it out here. Whenever we lost Stevie (John Stevenson) and Rory (McCann) early, two massive wickets for us, it was about consolidating in the middle overs and lucky for us, it was one of those days when Whitey and I saw it through,” said the Ireland A captain.
For White, it was a case of history repeating itself. In the 2009 decider he finished 50 not out in an eight wickets win; this time it was 57 in an innings just as impressive as his partner’s, without the same boundary impact. He was content with seven.
It was a first Challenge Cup medal for Shannon who missed the final three years ago, as he was in Canada at the Under 19 World Cup qualifying tournament. This year it was Ben Wylie’s turn to miss out – he had just arrived in Australia ahead of the World Cup finals when the game started – but this talented Instonians side made light of not only his absence but the other slow left armer who was supposed to play a decisive part in the final, Farooq Iqbal.,
The Pakistani flew in for the final, as Instonians’ replacement professional, but could only spectate as Instonians had registered him too late to play in the final. But White bowled his nine overs for 28, Shannon 10 for 32 and Zach Rushe only went at four an over, all three of the slow bowlers taking two wickets as the North Down batting flopped for the second game in succession.
Andrew Sutherland stayed around for 35 overs, scoring almost half the 120 runs, but with his dismissal, the charge in the last 15 overs turned into a crawl and in the end they were just trying to use up every ball. They failed.
Indeed, it could have been even worse for North Down if Gayan Wijekoon, their professional, had been caught at long-on with the total on 81 but he holed out to deep square just six overs later and captain Peter Shields’ resistance was never going to mean anything unless his bowlers got rid of the Instonians Big Four.
Gavin McKenna did his best, removing both openers in his first four overs but after that there wasn’t a sniff of a chance.
And the bad news for North Down is that Instonians are back at The Green tomorrow for a league game, with Iqbal to strengthen the cup winners.