Many pundits might have predicted a comfortable victory for Waringstown in their opening Ulster Bank Premier League game of the season at Lisburn on Saturday.
After all their opponents fought a long battle with relegation last season and were massive underdogs against the reigning league and Irish Cup holders.
Although Waringstown emerged victorious after a 44-run victory, the outcome was actually much closer.
The villagers had looked in total control when they posted 266 for seven batting first and then reduced the home side to 15 for two in reply.
But Lisburn, to their immense credit, gave chasing the huge target a real go.
Robert Rankin, who has a habit of scoring useful runs against Waringstown, and professional Cody Chetty, added 98 for the third wicket in good time and it took a leg-side catch by wicketkeeper Jonathan Bushe off Kyle McCallan to account for Chetty.
Rankin, who struck six fours and two sixes in his 79 from 102 balls, found a willing ally in Steve Lazars and when the fourth-wicket pair got Lisburn to 141 for three, the game was finely poised.
Greg Thompson, who had earlier struck a vital half-century against his former club, broke the stand by having Rankin caught by Phil Eaglestone but still Lisburn wouldn’t wave the white flag, Lazars batting in typically belligerent fashion, crashing six fours and two sixes before South African professional Cobus Pienaar, on debut, trapped him lbw as he walked across his stumps.
The last four Lisburn wickets fell for just 10 runs with Pienaar, bowling at a brisk pace, claiming superb figures of five for 30 and his fellow seamer Phil Eaglestone taking three for 39.
Earlier in the day Waringstown had to withstand an impressive early burst from Lisburn’s seamers.
James Hall hit two boundaries before he was bowled by Lazars but James McCollum and Adam Dennison led the recovery with a 76-run stand for the second wicket.
Dennison struck four boundaries in his 34 from 55 balls before he was lbw but McCollum went on to reach 50, continuing his superb form from last season.
At 121 for three in the 33rd over, Waringstown were well poised, but Richard McConkey struck twice in the space of four balls, first having Lee Nelson caught attempting a pull shot and McCollum caught behind for 52.
At 121 for four it was suddenly a different game but Pienaar and Thompson then produced the partnership that ultimately decided the game.
Left-handed Pienaar display a full array of strokes, hitting three sixes in a rapid 48 from just 38 balls while Thompson was majestic, his 58 coming from just 46 balls and including six fours and two sixes.
Their partnership of 84 came in little more than 11 overs.
Waringstown’s second eleven also beat Lisburn, Jonathan Waite hitting a brilliant century in an eight-wicket victory at The Lawn. Aaron Wright and big-hitting Marcus McClean also made good contributions in a fine run chase.
Waringstown’s senior team are back in action on Saturday as they begin their defence of the Irish Cup against north west club Bready.
James McCollum, who is currently attending university at Durham in England, will once again be back in Northern Ireland and available to play. That should mean Waringstown are likely to be unchanged from the team that beat Lisburn.
Bready are likely to be without paceman Craig Young. The Ireland bowler has signed a short-term contract with Hampshire.
The clubs last met in the Ulster Cup final of 2014 at Strabane.
Waringstown were strong favourites but Young’s bowling proved to be the difference as Bready pulled off a surprise victory. They have other talented players, including David Rankin, who has played Twenty20 cricket for Ireland.