Waringstown clinch Premier crown in emphatic style
It was more a feeling of relief than celebration for Waringstown last night as they clinched the Ulster Bank Premier League title outright for the first time since 2006.
A 10-wicket win over Lisburn at Wallace Park was as easy as it sounds - after Lisburn scored only 65 for eight - and even North Down, who can still finish level on points if Waringstown lose their final match, will accept they cannot overhaul them on run-rate.
"We've made life difficult for ourselves over the last couple of weeks and after the disappointment of (throwing away the league) last season finally to get close is a relief to all of us," said Villagers skipper Lee Nelson.
Fittingly, James Hall was in the middle at the finish, his unbeaten 43 taking him to 1,122 runs for the season, and although James McCollum denied him the honour of hitting the title-winning run, Nelson was quick to pay tribute to his star player this season.
"He's been phenomenal. I can't remember the last local batsman to have a year like that. I just hope he has one more big innings in him on Saturday," he said.
Merrion, their opponents in the Irish Cup final on Saturday, will provide much sterner opposition than Lisburn last night, a desperately disappointing season for David Simpson's side who could yet finish level at the bottom of the table with Ballymena but will get another season in the top flight, because of their superior run rate.
But last night was all about Waringstown and while the runs may have dried up for Kyle McCallan, the former Ireland captain can still produce match-winning spells with the ball. Last night he was just unplayable.
Four balls into his third over, he could have had figures of four for nought but Adam Dennison dropped a straightforward catch, though he deservedly got another wicket as Lisburn slumped to 30 for four in the 11th over.
Jean de Villiers, Waringstown's replacement South African professional, who only arrived yesterday morning, showed good pace on a chronically slow pitch but he will be disappointed that half of the 14 runs he conceded were wides.
Scores: Lisburn 65 (K McCallan 4-3, P Eaglestone 2-13) Waringstown 66-0 (11.3 overs, J Hall 43 not out, J McCollum 20 not out). Waringstown won by 10 wickets.