WARINGSTOWN completed one of the most memorable seasons in their long and distinguished history by winning the Bob Kerr Irish Cup for the third time at Comber on Sunday.
The villagers defeated Instonians by 21 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method after the rain arrived 29 overs into their run chase.
Batting first, Instonians had posted a competitive 237 for eight, but man-of-the match Simon Harrison struck an unbeaten 68 to guide Waringstown to 125 for two before heavy rain forced the players off.
The par score at that stage was 104, so under the complexities of the DL system and with no prospect of any more play, Waringstown were declared winners.
Captain Kyle McCallan lifted the trophy inside the confines of the pavilion with the rain too heavy to allow the ceremony to take place outside. But no-one in Waringstown cared as they reflected on a remarkable season when they also won the Ulster Bank Challenge Cup.
Harrison was the hero with that unbeaten on 68 from 97 balls, having hit five fours and three sixes. He marshalled the innings superbly during a largely untroubled second-wicket stand of 99 with Lee Nelson, who struck 36 from 46 balls.
With the threat of rain looming large, Waringstown had initially made heavy weather of staying ahead on Duckworth-Lewis. They only had to be 26 without loss to be ahead when the game became ‘live’ after ten overs, but they were seven runs behind with spits of rain in the air.
But after probing early spells from Eugene Moleon, Neil Hamilton and Andrew White, Harrison and Nelson gave the innings momentum against the support bowlers.
Harrison, one of the great unfulfilled talents of his generation, brought up his first half-century in more than two seasons with a towering straight six off Rory Sheard in the 20th over, and his only scare came when he survived a stumping chance off James Shannon when he was 59.
Nelson departed just before the rain, caught behind off Hamilton, but the margin of 21 runs underlined the extent of Waringstown’s control.
Inst will rightly complain that they got the rough end of conditions after losing a crucial toss, but despite 76 from White, 51 from James Shannon and a blistering 44 from only 25 balls from Hamilton, they came up short of a par score of around 260 on a superb Comber batting pitch.
Probably the game’s most defining moment was Shannon’s dismissal. The Ireland A batsman had struck the ball beautifully from the moment he reached the crease and a century, and with it an imposing total, was there for the taking.
But with Inst cruising on 110 for two in the 23rd over, Gary Kidd, the left-arm spinner, got one through his defences.
The Waringstown spinners, led by Kidd (2-35) and McCallan (2-29), swarmed all over the middle order. Just 45 runs were scored from the next 17 overs and it was only during those chaotic final 10 overs that Inst truly got on top of the villagers’ attack.
Waringstown had held their discipline superbly, and a target of 238 was not a daunting one on the best batting pitch in the country.
Of course, the villagers would have preferred to have knocked off the runs themselves but they deserved the run of the green after being deprived of a share of the title during an unfortunate Duckworth-Lewis inspired defeat at CIYMS.
It was hard not to feel sorry for Instonians after their own admirable cup run, but McCallan’s men are the deserved champions of Ireland. And with the NCU Challenge Cup already in the trophy cabinet, 2011 will go down in Waringstown folklore.