LEINSTER Lightning leapt to the top of the Newstalk Inter-provincial Cup table with victory over the North West Warriors but the weather was the real winner at Strabane Park.

The Warriors actually scored more runs in five overs fewer but due to the vagaries of the Duckworth Lewis method, they lost the 50 overs game, reduced to 28, by a convincing 54 runs.

There was no doubt Andrew Balbirnie deserved to be on the winning team as he continued to push his claims for a place on the pre-World Cup tour Down Under next month.

In the week he signed a new two-year contract with Middlesex, the 23-year-old Dubliner scored 88 and took two vital wickets to put Lightning in pole position going into the final two games of the series next month.

Stuart Poynter, whose century for Ireland against Sri Lanka A last month launched him into contention for a batting place in the 18-man international squad which leaves on September 23, did himself no harm with 30 off just 18 balls, the first batsman to show any urgency in a game repeatedly threatened by rain.

Poynter’s charge was interrupted in the 24th over and an early and extended lunch was taken while the uncovered bowlers’ run-ups dried out.

When play resumed, only 27 balls remained in the Lightning’s innings but Balbirnie, despite facing only 13 of them, scored 39 off his own bat, including the four sixes.

Craig Young, yet another Ireland tour hopeful, bowled a superb last over to restrict the visitors to just three runs, while also taking the wickets of Andrew Poynter and Tyrone Kane, but the damage had been done in those first 23 and a half overs when Lightning reached 103 for one.

As a result, despite Lightning finishing on 158 for five, Warriors were given a target of 215 in the same number of overs!

What an effort they made. After losing Jason Milligan in the second over, Stuart Thompson teed off from the start and hit John Mooney’s eighth ball for six and three balls later pulled another through mid-wicket.

Next over, David Rankin stepped up a gear, impressively coming down the pitch to uppercut tour certainty Max Sorensen over point for a six and next ball turned him nicely off his legs for four more.

Eddie Richardson — yes, another bowler hoping to be heading to Australia and New Zealand — was next into the attack but Thompson gave him the same treatment, with a lovely pick-up over mid-wicket for his second maximum, but the introduction of Balbirnie ended the entertainment, keeper Fintan McAllister taking the catch.

Balbirnie added the dangerous Johnny Thompson to his day’s success in his next over, caught at long-off, and by the time Rankin was yorked for a classy 44, off just 40 balls with five fours and two sixes, Warriors were well behind according to the D/L sheet.

Gary McClintock did his best to make a mockery of that, the Donemana all-rounder hitting five more boundaries, including two sixes, but in the end they ran out of wickets, the last, fittingly, falling in rain.