Relegation fears grow

Lurgan bowler Ollie McCollum who took a total of 7 for 73runs in games against Academy and Armagh.
Lurgan bowler Ollie McCollum who took a total of 7 for 73runs in games against Academy and Armagh.

Two defeats in the past week have sent Lurgan down into the relegation zone of the Ulster Bank Section 1 league.

Away to Academy in a two night midweek game at Castle Grounds, the Town side went down by 24 runs.

Chasing 195, Lurgan were facing disaster at 29 for 5 wickets when partnerships between Neil Anderson and Ollie McCollum and then Anderson with Stephen Johnston seemed to be steering the Town side to an unlikely victory.

Anderson went on to score a brilliant 99 not out but the early batting collapse simply left him short of partners.

The game had started well for Lurgan’s bowlers on the first night with Ollie McCollum and Callum Grieve beating the bat on numerous occasions and restricting the Academy top order to just 20 runs in the first 10 overs, with McCollum claiming the wicket of Mager for a duck and then Callum Gibson clean bowling Reid (11) with an in swinging delivery. Spin bowlers Niranjan Godbole and Paul Stafford kept the pressure on and Lurgan were well on top with the opposition struggling at 75 for 5.

However the arrival of rain certainly didn’t help the bowlers and with a slippery ball making it very difficult for the spinners to grip, the Academy batsman started accumulating runs and 53 and 48 run partnerships for the 6th and 7th wickets saw the home side move towards a challenging total. An excellent chest high catch by Ollie McCollum off the bowling of Grieve dismissed Academy top scorer Sistran-Tate for 62 with the score on 180 and 15 runs later the home side innings ended on 195 all out. Ollie McCollum took 3 for 34 in his 10 overs, Paul Stafford 3 for 42 off 10, Callum Gibson 2 for 56 off 10, Callum Grieve an economical 1 for 15 off 9 and Niranjan Godbole 1 for 41 off 10.

From the start of their reply, Lurgan’s top batting order was in trouble from the bowling of McLarnon and McFadden with McLarnon in particular getting a lot of movement with the ball.

Grieve, Harrison, Gibson, Godbole and Clarke were all back in the pavilion with just 29 runs on the board. Gradually Neil Anderson and Ollie McCollum started to stage a recovery and had taken the total to 87 before McCollum was caught out for 15, one of a couple of controversial dismissals in the Lurgan innings.

Stephen Johnston joined Anderson and another 50 partnership saw the score advance to 140 when Johnston was adjudged lbw for 14. With wickets running out, Neil Anderson attacked the Academy bowling and had reached 99 not out when the last Lurgan wicket fell. Anderson’s innings included 5 sixes and 7 fours but it was to no avail as the Town side were 24 runs adrift at the finish.

Against Armagh at Pollock Park on Saturday, it was a remarkably similar game to the one at Academy mid-week with the home side seemingly in control early on with Armagh sitting at 115 for 5.

However the lower batting order capably supported professional Indrajeet Kametar, who although well contained by the Lurgan bowlers in the first half of the innings, scored freely later on and was the last man out for 85 as Armagh finished on 195 all out – the same total as Academy in midweek.

Ollie McCollum capped a fine week with the ball taking 4 for 39 off his 10 overs while Callum Gibson had 2 for 37 off 10, Callum Grieve 2 for 47 off 9.3 and Niranjan Godbole 1 for 24 off 10.

The Lurgan reply did not start off as badly as at Academy although Callum Grieve was brilliantly caught at short leg by Sinton off Lester in the 4th over without scoring. Stephen Johnston had started positively and had hit 22 out of 31 when he nicked a delivery from Lester to wicket-keeper McCarter who took a fine catch standing up to the stumps.

After the dismissal of professional Niranjan Godbole, out to a catch in the covers by Kametar off Walsh for 25, the home side gradually began to fall behind the run rate with wickets falling at regular intervals.

The end came in the 42nd over when John Woods was bowled by Sinton for 3 to leave Lurgan all out for 105.

Lurgan’s current league position is a reflection of their player availability which has been a problem for the club for a wide variety of reasons from the start of the season. Hopefully with 8 games still remaining, the selectors will have a fuller compliment of players to select from to enable the Town side to pull away from the relegation threat.

The ball used by Lurgan for the game against Academy was kindly sponsored by Brian Campbell while the ball used in the Armagh match was kindly sponsored by Jason McCullough.