Van der Merwe sparkles as CSN revel in Challenge Cup triumph
Jason van der Merwe is only in his third season at Civil Service North but he has already pocketed two Challenge Cup winners' medals and, as of yesterday, a man of the match award in the decider.
The former Muckamore all-rounder scored an unbeaten 98, at exactly a run-a-ball, to guide his team to an exciting five-wicket victory over CIYMS with just four balls to spare as the cricket, for once in this miserable season, matched the fine weather.
In Van der Merwe's first season he scored 26 in a rain-curtailed cup final victory over Waringstown at Comber but yesterday, at the same venue, he had much more time to go big and he did so in some style.
Graeme McCarter had the honour of hitting the winning runs, denying Van der Merwe his century, but the 24-year-old did not care a jot as he was mobbed by his team-mates at the end of the match.
For someone who insisted he hadn't scored enough runs this season, it was a perfectly timed innings.
"I owed them those runs. I had only one other 50 this year which isn't good enough. But I'm sure the boys won't mind that I saved those runs for today. And the fact that they came in the final probably makes it my best innings," said Van der Merwe.
The Stormont side's performance was even more impressive because although Shane Getkate and McCarter were both named in the team, neither was fit to bowl but both justified their inclusion with the bat - Getkate scored 64 off 71 - and skipper Andrew Cowden got the most out of his bowlers who, despite conceding 80 in the last 10 overs, showed tremendous character to restrict CIYMS to 243 for seven.
Of the usual suspects, only Chris Dougherty failed to perform with the bat for the losers - CI were actually one for three after 14 balls - as skipper Nigel Jones, denied a personal hat-trick of cup final triumphs, made 50 and South African Test star Justin Kemp dug in to score 68 from 107 balls; he had only two boundaries in his first 50.
But Johnny Thompson made up for that with a whirlwind 37 off 26 balls, including three sixes.
When Wayne Horwood, Cowden and Paddy Beverland were all back in the pavilion at the start of the 14th over with just 34 on the board, it looked to be an uphill task, but this CSN side never admit defeat until it's all over and a partnership of 99 for the fifth wicket between Getkate and Van der Merwe put them right back on course.
Getkate holed out to short mid-wicket with 63 still needed from 11 overs but Van der Merwe loves cup finals and he did the rest.