Season promised so much but delivered nothing in the end

Waringstown's Kyle McCallum in action.
Waringstown's Kyle McCallum in action.

It seems barely credible considering the superb cricket they’ve played, but Waringstown have finished the 2014 season empty-handed.

Saturday’s six-wicket defeat to Instonians at Shaw’s Bridge confirmed the Belfast club as league champions and meant Waringstown were left runners-up in three competitions.

It was incredibly hard to take for Lee Nelson and his young team, who had led the title race all season only to lose to Instonians in their last two matches, the final one in the lottery of a Twenty20 contest.

The villagers batted well enough after being inserted by Neil Russell, James Hall hitting a sublime 69 from just 51 balls as they cruised towards what should have been a total of around 180.

But after Hall fell, caught at point off Stephen Bunting, the innings lost momentum. Nelson, who was looking threatening on 20, was caught in freak circumstances by Andrew White, and with Greg Thompson already back in the pavilion, perhaps promoted too early in the innings to number three, there was a lack of big-hitters down the order.

The final total of 157 for six was around par and Waringstown would have taken it at the start of the innings. However, it did leave them vulnerable to the kind of blistering assault that Neil Russell launched.

Phil Eaglestone’s first over was a maiden but then came the over that changed the course of the match. James McCollum saw one delivery deposited back over his head for six but then Russell skyed a ball high into the air and towards Adam Dennison at deep-midwicket.

It went higher than perhaps anyone could remember a ball going and sadly Dennison could not hold on and Russell was reprieved. It was the first of three lives the Inst captain enjoyed and how he made Waringstown pay in an astonishing innings of 80 from 43 balls.

With James Shannon blasting 38 from 19 at the other end Instonians were scoring at 11 and 12 runs per over until both openers and then Andrew White and Jordan McClurkin fell in quick succession.

Had Waringstown posted 180 they would have been in business, but there was little for the inexperienced Inst middle-order to do to get them over the finishing line.

Most neutrals agreed that Waringstown didn’t deserve to finish the season without a single trophy, but a combination of factors was their undoing.

Firstly, the weather killed their Irish Cup hopes in a bowl-out against Railway Union and they were favourites in the Irish Cup final until a rain interruption virtually gifted the trophy to Civil Service North.

Even in the double-header against Instonians two weeks ago, rain didn’t help Nelson’s team. After making 211 batting first at Shaw’s Bridge, Waringstown were favourites before the game was wiped out. And the following day at The Lawn, the title was within Waringstown’s grasp before Lee Nelson slipped on a wet surface - caused by a heavy rain shower.

It wasn’t meant to be but Waringstown should come back stronger in 2015.