Ralph Coetzee played one of the innings of the season in the match of the season to put North Down a step closer to winning the Ulster Bank Premier League title.
The South African-born Ireland international showed why he has made eight appearances for his adopted country with a sublime century as the Comber side scored 242 for six in 49 overs against defending champions Waringstown.
The Villagers, set a revised Duckworth/Lewis target of 247, were never in the hunt after Ijaz Ahmed lasted just seven balls and Kyle McCallan was run out to leave the visitors 97 for four. In spite of 66 from Simon Harrison they folded quietly, all out for 180 in the last over and now trail North Down by eight points. They have two games in hand but, at this stage of the season, points on the board count for a lot. North Down's last game is away to Downpatrick on Saturday.
North Down captain Pete Shields didn't want to play the possible title decider yesterday because he, as always, wanted his best team on the field and the Sunday fixture forced him to go into the match without their leading run-scorer David Kennedy.
But when Coetzee is in this form, the presence of Kennedy would have been an luxury. A patient start, when Ralph was content to rotate the strike with Taimur Khan, built into a crescendo of boundaries, deft nudges and cuts. He used up 80 balls to reach his 50 out of a total of 120 but needed only another 36 deliveries to compile a chanceless century, with six more fours and a another maximum. He was stumped two balls later but before he left the field, Ijaz shook him warmly by the hand, one class act acknowledging a innings fit to win any match.
Taimur was not nearly so fluent - indeed he was missed twice on 52, at long-off, and a stumping on 84. The latter - Keith Morrison's only mistake of the weekend when he was standing in for holidaying skipper Johnny Bushe - was not expensive as the Pakistani holed out to deep mid-wicket two runs later, but only because Ben McKnight brilliantly held the catch, balancing on one-leg to prevent him going over the boundary.
Lee Nelson was the beneficiary, finishing with three for 51 from seven overs, after conceding 16 in his first two. Simon Harrison was not recalled by acting captain Kyle McCallan after an impressive first spell which yielded just 12 runs and the wicket of Ryan Haire.
With three batsman missing, Waringstown were relying on their top five to make a dent in the North Down total and when Peter Connell took two wickets in six balls to dismiss James Hall and Ijaz - the professional driving straight to point - North Down maintained a momentum they only relinquished in a fourth wicket stand of 51 between McCallan and Simon Harrison.
Fatally, that ended when McCallan returned for what he expected to be an easy second run, Simon did not agree and both were stranded in the middle of the pitch as Michael Turkington's throw dismissed the Ireland international.
Elsewhere, Lurgan were relegated to Section Two for the first time, because Derriaghy beat Lisburn yesterday by 46 runs.
Lisburn, chasing only 135 for victory, were bowled out for 88 to give Derriaghy their sixth win of the season.
Downpatrick, who play Waringstown and North Down next weekend, are favourites to join Lurgan in Section Two after they lost to Civil Service North by 26 runs at Stormont.
Ulster Bank Premier League
At The Green, North Down beat Waringstown by 66 runs (D/L). North Down 242-6 (R Coetzee 102, Taimur Khan 86, P Shields 24; L Nelson 3-51) Waringstown 180 (S Harrison 66, K McCallan 37; P Connell 3-34, G McKenna 2-25, M Moreland 2-54).
At Shaw's Bridge, Instonians beat Carrickfergus by three wickets (D/L). Carrickfergus 139-6, 44 overs (A Cowden 42, C Hamilton 27, P Clark 3-17, A White 2-24) Instonians (target 144) 145-7 (38.4 overs, R McCann 53, S Wells 22; P Coverdale 3-26, R Eagleson 2-31, D van Rensburg 2-35).
At Wallace Park, Derriaghy beat Lisburn by 46 runs. Derriaghy 134-8 (43 overs, A van der Merwe 33, A Kenny 24, N Gill 21 not out; D Simpson 3-17, G Thompson 3-26) Lisburn 88 (U Graham 26; R Sheard 3-20, P van Niekerk 2-2, N Gill 2-17, A van der Merwe 2-29).
At Stormont, Civil Service North beat Downpatrick by 26 runs. Civil Service North 180-9 (50 overs, G Wilson 63, E Thompson 34, W Horwood 26; C Magowan 4-18) Downpatrick 154 (S Ferguson 24, J Cunningham 22; E Thompson 3-24, C Andrews 2-24, W Horwood 2-27).
At The Mall, CIYMS beat Armagh by six runs. CIYMS 152-5 (40 overs, J Hewitt 67, M Dempsey 42; S Lazarus 3-25, A Whitcroft 2-7) Armagh 146 (39.4 overs; D Bullick 38, S Lazarus 24, C Russell 21; M Dempsey 4-33; J Hewitt 2-27, S Flanagsan 2-24, T Adams 2-25).
At Shaw's Bridge, Cooke Collegians beat Dunmurry by eight wickets. Dunmurry 154-7 (45 overs, P Irvine 39, I Kamtekar 31; G Kidd 3-28, G Botha 2-30) Cooke Collegians 156-2 (38.5 overs, S Leckey 63 not out, R Hanna 38, J Neill 31 not out).
At Ballygomartin Road, Holywood beat Woodvale by 77 runs. Holywood 252-5 (50 overs, M Hutchinson 96, S Sharkey 92 not out, P McCormick 31; J Burnside 3-51) Woodvale 175 (A Kirkpatrick 70, T Browne 29; D Kennedy 3-24, M Shannon 2-20).
At Laurelvale, Laurelvale beat Muckamore by 72 runs. Laurelvale 206-6 (40 overs, C McCrum 83, W Pearson 43, P McCrum 38; S Jayaprakash 44, L Allen 2-44) Muckamore 134 (B Dunlop 35; S Sugewakar 26; S Hughes 5-40).