Sweet success for fine team display

WHEN Kyle McCallan held aloft the Ulster Bank Challenge Cup at Wallace Park last Friday, it was arguably the sweetest cricketing moment Waringstown have enjoyed in a long time.

This was just the second occasion since 1995 that the villagers have lifted the famous trophy, an amazing statistic when you remember how they monopolised the competition during the 1970s, 80s and early 90s.

While the 2006 victory over CIYMS was enjoyable, this moment was much sweeter because it came against a dangerous Civil Service North side and it was achieved without the brilliant professional Obus Pienaar.

The South African was instrumental in Waringstown getting to the final of course, but Friday’s 74-run win, the 20th time they have lifted the trophy, was a team performance in every sense of the phrase.

The moment when the trophy was clinched was full of cup final romanticism as Adam Dennison, at age 14 the youngest cricketer to ever play in the final, took a stunning winning catch at long-off.

But at that moment it was easy to forget how Waringstown had their backs planted firmly against the wall earlier in the day as they posted what appeared to be a disappointing 190 for eight batting first.

It all started so brightly as James Hall and Andrew Cousins began aggressively against the new ball, but Cousins was caught at short cover and Hall (22) got a leading edge off Colin Andrews.

Waringstown were approaching 100 with Lee Nelson and McCallan at the crease, but the former rather gave his wicket away as he was caught for 36, just a delivery after he had been dropped at mid-on.

At 95 for three, the innings could have gone either way, but together McCallan and Jonathan Bushe, who have proved a great foil for each other over the years, took the attack back to CSN with a clever stand of 69 for the fourth wicket.

Bushe made 34 from 45 balls, a contribution that might not seem enormous, but it was canny batting from the left-hander as he recognised the conditions and the state of the game and adapted his game accordingly.

When Waringstown needed him most, McCallan delivered the goods, as he almost always does. His 63 from 97 balls was not the most eye-catching innings he will ever play, but it was one of his most important for the club in the face of a fine CSN bowling and fielding performance.

When Waringstown reached 155 for three at the end of the 43rd over, the prize target of 220 was seemingly still within reach. But Bushe departed, caught behind as he tried to run Nigel Jones (3-30) down to third man, and as wickets began to tumble, Waringstown managed just 25 from the last five overs with McCallan bowled in a final over than yielded just two.

Opinion was divided about how good a total that was, but as CSN cruised to 36 without loss in the eighth over, the Belfast side were the strongest of favourites.

However, the game turned around in the space of two deliveries as first Keith Morrison had Gary Wilson caught off the leading edge by Simon Harrison, and next ball Andrew Cowden was adjudged caught behind.

Now, the destination of the trophy was going to hinge on how well CSN played the Waringstown spinners, and to the delight of the big travelling contingent from the County Down village, Nelson, James Hall and McCallan tied the Stormont side in knots.

Nelson, who was to claim the man of the match award for his superb figures of five for 23, struck arguably the two most important blows by having Marc Ellison and Jones caught close to the wicket, and that was the signal for a dramatic collapse.

Hall accounted for Charlie Beverland and Michael Heaney and Nelson struck again to have Hamilton Coulter caught at slip.

From being 59 for two in the 14th over, almost in the blink of the eye CSN were 75 for seven and although Allen Coulter briefly delayed the inevitable with 22 he was the last wicket to fall, caught by Dennison, spectacularly jumping backwards on the boundary off McCallan.

It was an emotional moment for Waringstown for so many reasons, and they celebrated in a jubilant huddle. The final had been no classic, but trying telling to the euphoric winning team and their supporters.

A word too goes to host club Lisburn. Wallace Park, always picturesque and immaculately presented, proved to be the most atmospheric of cup final venues.

The Waringstown celebrations went deep into the night, but McCallan’s men are still in the hunt for two other big prizes, the NCU Premier League and Bob Kerr Irish Cup.