THE harsh realities of top flight cricket were brought home to Lurgan at cold and windy Comber on Saturday as North Down inflicted a 59 run defeat on the Premier league newcomers.
However it was a defeat from which the Town side can take some comfort as they remained competitive throughout much of the game and have sent out a message to the other Premier league teams that they do not intend to be a pushover.
North Down won the toss and elected to bat on what looked like a good batting track and moved to 21 before Andrew Sutherland failed to connect to a shorter John Guy delivery and holed out to a head high catch by Stephen Johnston fielding at mid on. North Down skipper Ryan Haire joined Jonny Terrett in the middle and both proceeded cautiously against some tight bowling from Stephen Leckey and a rejuvenated Paul Stafford. Leckey was next to strike as a Ryan Haire skyer looked first of all to be heading to the deep mid off boundary for six, only for the wind to hold it up and allow namesake Peter Haire to claim an excellent catch at the second attempt. It was soon 87 for 3 as Alistair Shields mis-read a Paul Stafford delivery popping a catch back to the diving bowler for just 4.
In the 25th over, Nick Larkin was bowled by the excellent Leckey for just one and at drinks Lurgan were well in the game with the home side on 98 for 4. Opener Terrett however was still there, growing in confidence and starting to accelerate the North Down score. Peter Eakin who had joined him at drinks was also intent on not hanging about and the home side’s run rate began to rise. Eakin was bowled by Paul Stafford for 33 and Jonny Terrett went for a big hit off Charley Crasborn to take him to his century, only to be caught low down by Stephen Johnston on the long off boundary just 3 short of his ton. A late flurry by Marty Moreland took the home side to a final total of 233 for 8. It was a creditable bowling and fielding performance by Lurgan. Paul Stafford, Stephen Leckey and John Guy each took two wickets with Guy in particular a bit unlucky.
Openers Niranjan Godbole and Johnston attacked the bowling from the start with Johnston in typically aggressive mood. Fifty runs were on the board after just 8 overs for the loss of one wicket, but a vitally important wicket it was. With the score on 29 professional Niranjan Godbole was adjudged lbw for 13 after being struck on the back pad by a Tim Lea delivery. James McCollum came in at number 3 and was targeted initially with deliveries that rose just short of a length, but he weathered the storm and played a composed innings. The same cannot be said of his colleagues. As with last week against CIYMS, the middle order batting buckled following the dismissal of Johnston, who mis-timed a ball from David Kennedy to be caught out by Marty Moreland to give the North Down man a wicket in his first over. Stephen Chambers slipped to be run out for 2 while Peter Haire, batting with a runner after injuring himself fielding during the North Down innings, did raise the visitors’ hopes until he was bowled by Marty Moreland for 21 with the score on 111. McCollum was scoring steadily at the other end but was soon running out of partners as the game slipped away with wickets falling steadily. James was out eventually for 63 and when Paul Stafford was bowled by McKenna off the first ball of the 46th over, Lurgan were still 59 runs adrift with Callum Grieve stranded on 13 not out.
It was good performance from Lurgan with the ball, but a substantial contribution from the middle order is required if they are going to accumulate enough wins to cement their place in the Premier League.