Warriors battle it out for a rare win
The North West Warriors failed to follow up their first ever win in a Twenty20 inter-provincial but they have ensured there will be three competitive teams for the second round of matches in Comber next Sunday.
The Warriors had won only one of their first 17 inter-provincials since they were expanded over all three formats last season, but they clocked up their second at Bready yesterday in front of their home support and, once again, their victims were Leinster Lightning.
In the final game of last season they denied the Dubliners the 50-over title and this time they downed the holders in the shortest format by 30 runs in a rain-interrupted game.
Stuart Thompson and David Rankin gave them their best ever start with an opening partnership of 119 in 15 overs on route to a 20-over total of 167 for three and when the Lightning eventually started their innings, after the longest delay of the day, they were set a total of 141 in 16 overs.
Johnny Thompson made 2007 World Cup player Kenny Carroll's return to the representative arena a short one and when Coleraine teenager Rishi Chopra followed with the plum wickets of internationals Andrew Balbirnie and Andrew Poynter in successive balls, Warriors were in control and never threatened to relinquish it.
Lightning skipper John Mooney stopped the hat-trick but he was run out two balls later by a direct hit from Andy McBrine and even with Stuart Thompson playing with one hand, the Warriors eased to victory.
Thompson had injured a finger in the previous over when he attempted to stop a drive from Poynter and played the rest of the day with a strapping on his left hand.
A visit to hospital last night revealed the extent of the damage but, it was certainly a worry for watching Ireland coach Phil Simmons, just 17 days before the next international, against Sri Lanka A at Stormont.
Heroically Thompson, who had hit 60 off 50 balls, completed three of his four overs and went in first again in the second match, against the Northern Knights and somehow managed to bowl his full quota of overs as well.
Second time around, Thompson was caught in the covers in the third over, but Rankin followed up his 62 against Lightning with a further 73 against the Knights.
But the loss of his wicket, at the start of the 17th over, sparked a horrible collapse which saw seven wickets fall for 15 runs and made the Knights' chase much easier than it really should have been.
Captain Andrew White and Peter Eakin wreaked the havoc at the end but the batsmen, three of whom insisted on going too far across their stumps, were more culpable.
The Knights can say their target of 150 could have been even less if Rankin had not been dropped twice, straightforward chances in the deep to Lee Nelson on 45 and Nathan Waller on 63, but in the end it didn't matter, as they won by seven wickets with five balls to spare.
Harder to stomach for the home supporters, who as usual turned out in impressive numbers despite the showery weather, was that one of their own was the Knights' match-winner.
Chris Dougherty, the CIYMS skipper and opening batsman, brought his good club form back home to Bready and hit 58, including six fours and a six.
He couldn't quite see the job through – dismissed by Craig Young with just two required – but his patience and the steady batting at the other end by Nick Larkin, James Shannon and White was too good for the Warriors attack, although Andy McBrine and Chopra gave nothing away with eight impressive overs of slow bowling.
All we need is some good weather next Sunday at The Green for the Knights' family fun day and the spectators will be in for another treat.