Cooke claim Junior Cup
David Holmes (News Letter)
At the end of a tremendous day’s cricket on Saturday (the sun even shone!) the Goldblatt McGuigan Junior Cup was back in the trophy cabinet of Cooke Collegians at Shaw’s Bridge where it will reside for the second successive year.
Play at Belmont was held up for 30 minutes at the start as water had got under the covers and there was a damp patch in the middle of the pitch. I had always maintained that this was a contest that would be decided by Lisburn’s bowling and Cooke Collegians batting and perhaps influenced by this Lisburn elected to field after Glenn Halliday won the toss.
Cooke Collegians captain Richard Johnson promoted himself to the opening slot with Kamil Naidoo and an inspired decision it proved to be. The damp patch was not causing any difficulty in fact anything short of a length sat up begging to be hit and Johnson did not disappoint.
When Neil McDowell came on as first change he appeared to be struggling with his run up and his one and only over went for 18 with Johnson hitting two sixes and two fours. At the end of the over the ground staff were out with the pitchforks for some running repairs but we were soon underway again.
Derek Suffern made the breakthrough with a superb one handed caught and bowled to remove Naidoo for 28 just when he seemed to be getting into his stride. At this juncture Suffern and Carl Williams put a stranglehold on the Cooke Collegians batting.
From 85 for 1 after 19, just 44 runs came off the next 20 overs and an out of touch Luke Willmott managed only 3 from 36 balls just when Cooke Collegians were looking to press home their advantage. The two slow bowlers conceded just 39 from their 20 overs.
The man to benefit from the pressure was Richard Booth who picked up 4 for 45 from his 9 overs. Johnson finally succumbed when he had made 69 from 115 balls with 3 maximums and 9 boundaries in a real captain’s innings.
At 164 for 7 Lisburn probably thought about restricting the opposition to fewer than 180 but Chander Shekhar hit a rapid 24 from 15 balls with two sixes to push the final score to 193 for 8.
Lisburn certainly did not waste any time in going after the Cooke Collegians bowling with McDowell in particular deciding that if it was up, it was going making 28 out of an opening partnership of 35. Wicket-keeper Wilmott took a superb catch low down off an inside edge to dismiss him.
With the score on 53 it all went wrong for Lisburn, first captain Halliday was dismissed then after facing only two balls Williams found himself beside Jeff O’Hara as the bails were being removed at the other end for a tragic run out. Then off the next delivery O’Hara was clean bowled by Johnson, three wickets without a run added.
Just as Lisburn appeared to be regrouping and Suffern starting to look dangerous another run out this time a fantastic piece of fielding by Johnny Boyd. From that point it seemed Lisburn were deflated and it was a question of when not if.
There was still time for captain Richard Johnson to return to the attack and apply the coup de grace with 2 wickets in 9 balls to finish with 3 for 12. There were also two wickets each for Greg Lucy and Shekhar as Lisburn came up 76 runs short.
Now we did mention the possibility of a Johnson hat trick with man of the match awards and in a way we got it. Although it was the Cooke Collegians skipper, not brother Chris, for his 69 and 3 for 12, not a difficult decision this time. I spoke with him after the match:
“It has been a fantastic day and getting the man of the match is the icing on the cake. I spoke to Chris, there was a bit of banter about that, at least I have one now to go alongside his two.
I decided to open with myself as I thought Neil McDowell would open for them, I prefer batting with the ball coming on. To be honest if I had won the toss we would have batted anyway. I was confident enough to back both our batting and bowling.
The dampness did not cause any real problems anything short just sat up. I enjoyed my innings; nice to get a fifty in the final and I just waited for the bad ball. There was some movement for their bowlers, but I always felt if I did not do it somebody would.
I thought Greg Lucy bowled well for us and Graeme Pollock was unlucky not to get a wicket. Their running between the wickets perhaps let them down with three run outs. I think it was good to bat first as I preferred to have the runs on the board.”
I asked him how it felt to retain the trophy and how the day differed from the previous year: “I was more nervous at the thought of retaining the trophy, but once I got out there it was no different really. Towards the end when I felt we were in control I started to relax a bit and really took in the atmosphere.
There was a good crowd along, the sun was shining and not often we get that number along to watch us, I was able to pick up on some of the comments this time, mostly good natured!”
Lisburn may feel that perhaps on the day they did not do themselves justice, but no shame in losing to the two time winners.
Richard Johnson confirmed that he expects to have most of the side back again next year and is looking forward to the challenge of three in a row.