Chasing pack close in after Coleraine slip up
CRUCIAL WEEKEND SEES CHASING PACK CLOSE IN ON LEAGUE LEADERS
The most thrilling senior league campaign in many years looks like going to the wire and beyond after an action-packed Saturday saw vital wins at both ends of the Long's SuperValu table.
Coleraine went into the weekend clear by two points but were to come up agonisingly short against improving Fox Lodge who are desperately clinging on to the lead in the race to avoid 8th place.
The visitors won the toss here and put their hosts in to bat it was slow and steady early on as Ian McGregor and Craig Averill put on 48 for the first wicket. The Foxies fought back however and three quick wickets got them back into it before a 68 run stand between McGregor and David Cooke evened it up again.
The skipper eventually fell for a composed 66 before another surge of wickets reined the Bannsiders back; Cooke's 39 the only contribution of note thereafter in a total of 175. Wajihuddin's 4 for 19 was best for the Ballymagorry men with 2 wickets apiece for Aaron Heywood and Jason Milligan.
All the Foxies' batsmen got starts and former skipper Brian Allen looked like leading them to a comfortable win before being run out having just reached his half century. Coleraine's bowlers then opened the game up again; Stevie Dunn's 10 overs costing just 16 runs and going into the final overs it was clear this one was going all the way.
With 6 balls left the visitors needed five to win and after a single from Dean McCarter and a few swings and misses from Andrew McGinnis they got it down to needing 4 off Craig Averill's final delivery. To the delight of the Foxies' players and supporters McGinnis connected perfectly with it and sent it sailing over the rope for 6, throwing the title race widen open and keeping the pressure firmly on Glendermott in that play-off scrap.
Limavady and Strabane went into their game at the Hunter Grounds locked together in second place but it was the Red Caps who emerged with their title hopes enhanced following an impressive win. Kevin Martin and Peter Gillespie both got starts for the visitors as runs were at a premium early on but the game was to be won and lost on two counts- Faisal Iqbal and a shocking 41 extras handed over by the home team.
We said last week that Iqbal looks as good a player as there is in the country at present and his performance here gave no reason to change that view. The Pakistani hit 4 fours and 2 sixes when all around him were struggling to cope with the huge expanses of the Hunter Grounds and his 76 allowed Strabane to set a target of 190 that was always going to take some pulling back.
Dekker Curry finished with 4 for 32 and Andy Britton 3 for 40 but Chris Moore's 2 for 14 from 10 overs was as good as anything on offer.
The Roesiders, aware of the importance of the game started defensively but Phil Eaglestone was soon in among them as the batsmen struggled to contend with their own conditions. The left arm seamer knocked back the stumps of three of Limavady's top four in an impressive burst and from there on in Strabane bossed it.
Zeeshan Malik resisted manfully with a dogged half century that included 5 fours but with the visitors proving a bit more reserved with the free runs they were allowed to coast to a comfortable win that puts them right back in the title picture.
Bready are clinging on to the leaders' tails as well and David Scanlon's side racked up a hugely impressive 100-run win against the defending champions to keep their dream alive.
The Magheramason men have been blighted by real inconsistency this season but it was very much best foot forward here as a brilliant display in the field was the precursor for an emphatic victory. Despite losing Bryan Scanlon early on David Barr and David Rankin led a mini revival before Mark Olphert and Brian Crumley edged Bready in front.
Both men played their shots when they got a chance with Olphert the aggressor hitting 5 fours and 2 sixes in his 43. Once again though a mounting “extras” count of 32 was to be crucial as the visitors closed on 215 all out; Dale Culbert with 3 wickets and Johnny Thompson, Mark Snodgrass and skipper Mark Simpson claiming 2 apiece for the champions.
There was no Gareth McKeegan in the home team line up, the wicket-keeper batsman missed on both counts was out through illness and the reply lacked any real cohesion. Makeshift opener Chris Dixon made 20 but that was to be as good as it got as some superb work in the field by Bready kept Brigade at arms length.
The bowling wasn't bad either as Mark Fleming returned to form with 4 for 30 in what was a thoroughly convincing win for the visitors.
Donemana got a real scare against a resurgent Bonds Glen and were forced to chase down a huge target before keeping their title hopes very much alive.
The Bee Gees were buoyant following last week's win over Glendermott and professional Gihan Dilruk was back in the groove again with his second successive century, his fourth in all this season. The Sri Lankan shared a 70-run stand with Willie Jackson and then a century partnership with his skipper as the visitors took the game to the senior cup winners.
Jackson played very well for his 44 while Hepburn was in typically aggressive form on his return to an old stomping ground with 4 fours and 6 sixes in his 59. Both however were left in Dilruk's shadow as the overseas man again made light of a steady fall of wickets around him and by the time he eventually gave way Dilruk had smacked 20 fours and 9 sixes in a very impressive knock of 183.
Junior McBrine tidied things up to finish with 4 for 55 while there were 2 wickets apiece for Kamran Sajid, Gary McClintock and William McBrine as the basement boys posted 339 all out.
Sajid has been in scintillating form for Donemana this season and would have been over the 1200 runs for the year barrier had the rain not wiped out their midweek game at Creevedonnell. Unperturbed, the Pakistani simply went back to his mark and started again as he led a stunning fightback from Richard Kee's side.
Sajid shared a 79-run stand with his skipper for the first wicket before Kee went for 42 and then a 124-run partnership with Gary McClintock who hit 4 fours and 3 sixes in his 60. Graeme Boyd also got in on the act hitting 7 fours and 2 sixes in an attacking 61 that took the reply to 321 for 2.
The prized wicket of Sajid fell to Corey Logan, captain of the under-16's who will happily remember his senior scalp, however by that stage the Donemana all-rounder had hit 17 fours and 4 sixes in his even time 129.
It was a canter for the hosts at that stage but they still contrived to lose three more wickets between there and the winning line as Hall finished with 3 for 9.
An excellent showing from the Bee Gees this ahead of yesterday's crunch game with Creevedonnell but there was to be no reward for it. Donemana meanwhile stay very much in the hunt going into a frenetic schedule of matches that could well dictate their chances.
The final game of the quintet ended in a very valuable win for Glendermott as they had a nervous 3 wickets to spare over Creevedonnell.
Several of Stephen Scroggie's batsmen got starts with no fewer than 5 of them getting past 20 but none getting to 30 and the lack of that one telling innings was to cost the home side. Gordon Montgomery, Stephen McCloskey and Charlie Elder all picked up three wickets each as the Creevies posted a modest 175, however Glendermott's reply soon hit the skids as the top order struggled.
By tea the hosts were ahead on points as Simon Killen, Roy Silva and skipper Montgomery were all back in the hutch with the score on 28 before a solid 95-run stand between Bob Robinson and Alan Johnston shifted the balance of power.
Robinson hit 5 fours and 2 sixes on his way to a half century while Johnston made 44 but even then it wasn't plain sailing as another few quick wickets had the Rectory side rocking. It took a steady unbeaten 34 from former Creevedonnell captain Charlie Elder to steer the Waterside men over the line as the battle to avoid the play-off intensified.
We're in a key period for Glendermott now as they play Brigade today and have Donemana on the horizon in their games in hand as they bid to pass the Foxies.
It doesn't look good for Creevedonnell however and with an away trip to Bonds Glen torday, little doubt that something is now about to give.