Cricket: Double despair for poor Knights
The Northern Knights' Family Fun Day turned into a horror show on the pitch as they lost both Twenty20 matches to hand the initiative to North West Warriors going into the final round of games in the Newstalk Inter-provincial Trophy.
Victory in the second match of the day for the Warriors puts them in pole position going into the double header at Pembroke on August 3, but if Leinster Lightning win both their home games they will retain the title.
Off the pitch, the organisers at Comber got it right and they deserved a better turn-out – although the uncertain weather for much of the day probably affected the final attendance – but the Knights batsmen got it all wrong with only Nigel Jones getting past 30 as they fell 15 runs short of Lightning's total and then capitulated to 120 for eight against the Warriors, handing them a three wickets victory, despite the efforts of Greg Thompson.
The former Ireland international went through a terrible couple of years with the ball but the leg spinner has got his action back and three wickets for 10 runs in four overs in the hurly-burly of a Twenty20 game was as good it gets and almost sparked a dreadful Warriors collapse – almost.
From coasting to the winning post at 77 for two after 11, Thompson reduced the North West side to 90 for five and when the North Down pair of James Cameron-Dow and Peter Eakin took wickets six and seven in successive overs, the Warriors suddenly needed 14 off the last two overs.
But Johnny Thompson finally broke free, the Brigade all-rounder hitting the second ball of the penultimate over for six and another boundary off the second ball of the last finished the match and ensured they would be in the deciding game in Sydney Parade in three weeks' time.
If the afternoon game was the one that nobody wanted to win, the morning contest was won by the team who wanted it more.
Leinster Lightning had let themselves down in the first round at Bready last week but they were fired up from the off yesterday, with skipper John Mooney leading from the front and choosing to open the batting with T20 specialist Kenny Carroll.
Carroll hit the first ball of the day for four and followed up with another from the fifth ball to make it 10 in the first over.
The second was a nightmare for Shane Getkate who bowled four wides, and with each batsman also finding the boundary and Mooney's tally boosted by four overthrows, Lightning found themselves on 30 after two overs.
It could only get better for the Knights after that and Cameron-Dow and Andrew White, with wickets in the space of four balls, reduced the Leinster side to 53 for three but that only let in Andrew Poynter.
The Ireland international has already hit five successive 50s and back-to-back centuries this season for Clontarf and, proving he is seeing the ball as big as the one used in last night's World Cup final, he produced the innings of the day, hitting five fours and five sixes in a superb 70, off just 36 balls.
Pat Collins – who scored just 13 in their 57 runs stand – used up 34 balls making 24 and after Jones had Poynter caught by Thompson at long-off, Knights restricted their southern visitors to just 15 from the final 16 balls to give themselves a favourite's chance at halfway.
They were even hotter favourites after Jones and Chris Dougherty put on 56 for the first wicket but it went downhill for the hosts after that and Albert van der Merwe and Tyrone Kane took out the next three batsmen and Mooney's miserly performance with the ball put his side in such control that, remarkably, he did not have to return to bowl his final two overs.
More worryingly for Knights, Jones is not available for today's 50-over contest against the Warriors, also at The Green, as they attempt to pick up the pieces.
All eight of Saturday's scheduled league games in the NCU and North West were abandoned.