Instonians rain on the villagers' title procession
Instonians turned the Ulster Bank Premier League title race into a two-horse race by inflicting a first defeat of the season on Waringstown - with substantial help from the weather.
When rain halted play in the 23rd over of the top of the table clash at The Lawn, Instonians, chasing 249 for victory in 47 overs, were 95 for two just before halfway but, crucially, five runs ahead on the DLS chart.
With the Waringstown spinners set to bowl the remaining 24 overs, an ask of over six runs an over for that length of time was bound to be a big one and the defending champions considered themselves favourites.
But DLS calculations do not take account of pitch conditions or the strength of teams and two boundaries hit by Rusty Theron off Gary Kidd in the slow left armer's previous two overs took Instonians past the par score of 90 at the break for rain which became so heavy that it was quickly terminal.
For the good of the league it was the perfect result because an eighth win out of eight for Waringstown would have turned the second half into a title procession but now there is everything to play for and the top two are set to meet in the final game of the season. They were due to meet at Shaw's Bridge on Saturday August 27 but that game will be postponed because the teams meet in the Irish Cup semi-final, back here at The Lawn, two weeks previously and the winners will be contesting the Irish Cup final on the last Saturday of next month.
It was a rousing finish from experienced Kyle McCallan and stand-in wicket-keeper Marcus McClean that had put Waringstown in a commanding position at halfway, their unbroken eighth wicket stand of 80 coming from just 50 balls, 24 of them in the penultimate over, bowled by James Shannon, which included three consecutive sixes by the unsung McClean.
McCallan also hit two sixes and two fours in his 24 after Waringstown had lost five wickets for 37 runs in a middle order collapse after Adam Dennison had set it up with 72 before he was the first of four victims for Lewis McNamara.
Dennison was promoted to opener in absence of James McCollum and it is set to be a permanent position for the Ireland Under-19 batsman as McCollum is getting a scan today on suspected torn ligaments which could put him out of action for the remainder of the season.
Shannon was sent in as opener for Instonians and his 32 not out effectively won the match as a third wicket for Waringstown would have seen the Villagers move eight points clear. Instead it's all square with six games to play.
The finish in yesterday's only other Premiership match - there was no play in the Challenge Cup final dress rehearsal between Civil Service North and CIYMS - was, if anything, even more dramatic.
Ross Bailey hit the first ball of the 32nd over for four to put Derriaghy ahead of Carrickfergus on DLS and when the torrential arrived one ball later, forcing the players off, the visitors were two runs ahead of the par total.
The result completed the literally handful of close results in the Premier League at the weekend with margins of one, two, three, four and five runs deciding the five games on DLS.
Saturday's game at Comber proved the closest when, despite needing 17 off the last over to beat Lisburn, Alistair Shields, who finished 91 not out, took 12 off the first five balls and then David Simpson bowled a no-ball which was stopped by Billy Adams at the non-striker's end. A two from the last ball was one short of a tie.
Waringstown's four-run victory over CI leaves the Belmont side at the bottom of the table after Derriaghy's win yesterday, albeit with matches in hand.
Cobus Pienaar made up for McCollum's early dismissal - run out while injured - with his first century for the club.
Carrickfergus's last three games, in the past five days, have all gone to the last ball but Saturday's win over CSN has been their only victory.