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Pretorius in form as North Down return to the Lawn

 

By Ian Callender

North Down must return to the Lawn on Sunday to face Waringstown in the final of the Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup, just three weeks after being bowled out for 125 in the Gardiner Bros Premier League.

The Comber side will be hoping for a fresh pitch - although Woodvale face Armagh first up in the Trophy final - but unless Waringstown get Ruan Pretorius early it probably doesn't matter what surface the showpiece decider will be played on.

Pretorius, who was Waringstown's professional in 2014, was snapped up this year by North Down and, halfway through his first season at The Green the highest compliment that can be paid is that Peiter Malan, their prolific overseas star last season, has not been missed.

His fellow-South African is already approaching 800 runs in all competitions after a second successive century in T20 cricket in a thrilling innings against Muckamore in Saturdays semi-final at Moylena.

The Premier League new boys had won all six group games to earn home advantage on Saturday but this time their bowlers had no answer to Pretorius's pyrotechnics as he hit 10 fours and eight sixes in a superb 120, from just 61 balls as North Down totalled 209 for four. Daniel Graham proved the perfect foil for Pretorius and although he was in the middle for all but the last ball of the innings, he faced just 43 balls but reached a deserved 50 in the final over.

Martin Moreland, opening the bowling, then took four for 21 in his four overs - his best in T20s - to reduce Muckamore to 37 for five. Game over.

It was even quicker at The Lawn as Waringstown reduced Instonians to 27 for seven in the second semi-final at The Lawn with two wickets apiece for James Mitchell and Gary Kidd, the destroyer of North Down in the league game with seven wickets.

However, both dismissals were gifts for Kidd this time as Jordan McClurkin and Nathan Smith were stumped, off successive balls, despite the scoreboard showing 27-5 and then 27-6. Remember, they were batting first!

Rob McKinley provided a one-man innings of defiance, before he was finally bowled off the innings penultimate ball for 46 to give Phil Eaglestone his second wicket.

The total of 90 for eight proved no problem for Waringstown, indeed openers Adam Dennison (61 not out, with 11 fours and a six) and James Hall reached it themselves in 10.3 overs to earn that home game on Finals Day.

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