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Lightning beat Knights to win Inter-pro title for the fifth straight year

 

By Ian Callender

Leinster Lightning beat the rain and the Northern Knights last night to end their third successive treble-winning season on an emphatic winning note.

Victory by 55 runs at Rathmines in a game of four weather interruptions underlined the all-round strength of a team which was without Ed Joyce and Andy Balbirnie, rested by Cricket Ireland ahead of Wednesday's one-day international against West Indies at Stormont.

But Simi Singh returned to action after his lay-off with a sore shoulder and wrapped up the Knights innings with his second wicket, while Ireland team-mates Peter Chase and George Dockrell also flexed their muscles, sharing five wickets.

Dockrell is the man in form with both and ball, which is a huge positive going into the ODI. Surprisingly left out of the Intercontinental Cup match against the Netherlands last month -which Ireland could only draw - he took six second innings wickets to bowl Lightning to victory in the Championship game against Knights last week and he picked up yesterday where he had left off.

With the Knights innings reduced to 25 overs, Dockrell could bowl only five overs but he struck with his first ball, Chris Dougherty trying to hit him over long off but only finding the safe hand of Tyrone Kane.

Eight balls later, Greg Thompson handed him his second wicket when the Waringstown skipper missed with an ugly sweep shot and Jacob Mulder was his third victim, beaten again by spin and skying the ball to mid-wicket - all this at a cost of just 18 runs, and five of those were from wides.

He was already in pole position for man of the match as he had finished the Lightning innings in style, hitting four fours and two sixes, bringing up his 50 from 35 balls with the final ball of the innings.

Despite five of his team-mates higher up the order, getting into the 20s, only Sean Terry reached 32 and it was thanks to Dockrell that Lightning turned an average total into a winning one as 73 came off the last 10 overs.

Singh, batting at first wicket down, hit only three boundaries in his 29 before being caught behind off Robert McKinley while Kevin O'Brien and Lightning skipper John Anderson, the other members of this week's Ireland squad in action, were the 20 and out men - O'Brien, after hitting a four and two sixes, caught at mid-wicket off Shane Getkate and Anderson holing out at deep square off Gary Kidd, who was the pick of the Knights attack.

He had to be, because he got no support from Jacob Mulder who continues to struggle, with his length, as he has done for the past month, while Getkate's figures were ruined by Dockrell as his last two overs went for 31 runs.

Chase, who could open the bowling on Wednesday In preference to Tim Murtagh, struck with his fourth ball, a nip backer which clipped the bails, and after bowling three wides in his second over followed up with the wicket of James McCollum, although it was accepted he was very fortunate to get that decision as only the umpire, answering the hopeful appeal, thought the Waringstown batman got a touch to the wicket-keeper. The real damage to the Knights' hopes of chasing down their increasingly difficult target had already been done with the wicket of James Shannon.

The Knights skipper promoted himself to open when the Knights set out needing 242 in 48 overs and hit three of his first balls for six and his seventh cleared the wall at mid-wicket. But a rain break ruined his concentration - and momentum - and first ball back he was yorked by Tyrone Kane.

William Porterfield and his Ireland vice-captain Gary Wilson arrived at the ground in time for the finish but even they would have been unlikely to have made any difference to this result.

Lightning continue to reign supreme and unless the format is changed next year, it is likely to be yet another treble with the Knights and Warriors fighting among themselves for the minor honours.

Meanwhile, a date for the final game of the Gardiner Bros Premier League season had still to be confirmed last night after Lisburn were forced call off their game against leaders Waringstown on Saturday.

It will now be a 20 overs game, almost certainly this weekend, with the Villagers needing only to avoid defeat to pip CIYMS to the title. Another wash-out will also confirm Waringstown as champions as they have fractionally the better run-rate.

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