With nine internationals to seven on show and two of the North’s seven having a grand total of two caps between them, the South were always favourites to win the first RSA inter-provincial of the season — and they did not disappoint.
Kevin O’Brien’s side were under a little pressure, have been bowled out inside 49 overs for 223, but although the North reached 73 for two in reply, with their three big guns still to come, the South flexed their muscles and 20 overs later the home side had subsided to 125 all out.
Max Sorensen was the man of the match, not only taking his second representative five-wicket haul in five weeks — following his match-winning performance against Scotland A — but he also had the rare distinction of claiming a hat-trick, all caught in front of the wicket.
Gary Wilson was his first victim, caught by Andrew Poynter in the covers, next ball Stuart Thompson drove straight to mid-off and a well disguised slower ball also did for late call-up Charles Beverland, of Civil Service North, and he spooned a gentle catch to mid-off.
Beverland was not even present at the start as the NCU selectors chased up a replacement for Ireland Under-19 World Cup squad member Andy McBrine who failed to make it to The Lawn, but it was another member of that squad who left a lasting first impression on many.
Robin Kelly, the Pembroke opening batsman, was the surprise inclusion in the 15-man squad but he give a hint of why he was fast-tracked with a 31-ball innings of 28, including five fours. Nigel Jones had him caught, attempting his third successive boundary in the 16th over but that only let in Poynter to join Cusack and they put on 81, the biggest partnership of the day.
With 18 overs to go, the South were on course for a total of 270 but slow left armer Scott Campbell and off spinner Lee Nelson took three wickets in 17 balls, including both set batsmen just short of their 50s, to force the visitors into consolidation mode.
Tim Murtagh showed his worth with the bat with 21, albeit at a strike rate of just 50, but John
Mooney was little better and a leading edge off North captain Andrew White was his downfall.
Hopes of an exciting finish though were ruined by Sorensen who took his hat-trick during the only spell (two overs) of pace bowling from the car park end.
Andrew Balbirnie bowled his full quota of 10 overs at the start and was replaced by, first, Albert van der Merwe, who ended up with three wickets and Merrion leg spinner John Anderson, who gets another chance with Ireland A — captained by John Mooney — away to Durham II, in the three-day game starting tomorrow.
The next inter-pro is at Bready in three weeks time.