CIYMS see off Waringstown to open up a gap at the top
CIYMS went four points clear at the top of the Robinson Services Premier League table with a 136 run win over Waringstown at Belmont on Sunday.
With the wicket under covers for the majority of the past week and overhead conditions appearing to help the red ball swing, Waringstown captain Greg Thompson elected to bowl after winning the toss.
CIYMS’ game against Armagh had been called off on Saturday, so the outfield was always going to be that bit slower than usual for this top of the table encounter.
The conditions didn’t seem to bother the opening pair of John Matchett and Chris Dougherty, with the duo scoring at will and not much seeming to trouble either one.
Matchett has shown glimpses of his undoubted talent this season, hitting 118 against Carrickfergus in the Twenty20 Cup, and went past fifty for the fourth time in this campaign from 60 balls in the 19th over.
They brought up their 100 partnership soon after, and Waringstown were in desperate need for something to happen when the home side reached the drinks break at 120-0.
Lee Nelson, who has a knack of picking up the important wickets, struck with the very first ball after the break when Matchett edged behind to Marcus McClean for 73.
Dougherty would follow soon after for a patient 46, with Phil Eaglestone picking up the wicket through a catch at mid-on.
Skipper Nigel Jones was joined by Jason van der Merwe with the score on 148-3, and the pair steadied the ship after their side lost three wickets in the space of eight overs.
Jones in particular was looking very dangerous, and it would have been a huge relief when he was brilliantly caught by McClean for 34 when trying to up the scoring rate.
The Belmont side were losing wickets in clusters, with Shaheen Khan returning to pick up the scalps of van der Merwe and Cameron Dow.
It was left to Matt McGillivray to smash the late runs needed to take advantage of the great position they had been in earlier in the day, with the South African clobbering 51 from 21 deliveries, including five fours and three sixes.
Khan ended with three wickets, and his last spell in particular was full of quality and pace, picking up two wickets and not giving the opposition much to work with.
Waringstown have got off to a flying start on so many occasions this season, but Allen Coulter made sure it didn’t happen this time round when he had Adam Dennison, who had scored three centuries in his previous three 50 over innings, caught at slip for 6.
Kyle McCallan followed two balls later, giving Coulter his 35th wicket of the 2018 campaign, and left the away side in all sorts of trouble at 19-2 after six overs.
They rebuilt through Hall, who brought up his 11000th run for the club on Saturday, and Nelson, reaching 64 before the former was well-caught by Matchett in the deep off McGillivray for 39.
Khan was the hero when these two sides met in the Challenge Cup semi-final last month when he blasted 124, and it was clear that he and Greg Thompson were going to have to do the majority of the hitting.
They are two of the most destructive batsmen in the NCU, but neither could cause the necessary damage with Khan caught in the deep off Trevor Britton, and Thompson followed a couple of overs later when Jason van der Merwe stuck.
That was the moment that the game felt over, and the reigning champions ended on 127-9.
Van der Merwe was the standout bowler for the home side, picking up figures of 4-21 from his six overs.
CIYMS lost the title on run-rate last season, but it is now their trophy to lose with a points advantage and a game in hand over their nearest competition.
They have six games left to play in total, and it will be a sweet moment for the Belfast side to get one over on the dominant Waringstown after that Challenge Cup heartbreak.
Waringstown will no doubt dust themselves off and go again in the Irish Senior Cup semi-final at Strabane on Sunday as they look to defend the title they won 12 months ago.