Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Northern Knights must make it a double to retain trophy

Helter skelter: Fintan McAllister and Andrew Balbirnie (No 15) gave Leinster Lightning the perfect start in Saturday's inter-provincial

Leinster Lightning's bonus point from Saturday's Newstalk inter-provincial Cup win over the North West Warriors means that Northern Knights must win both next month's games against Leinster Lightning if they are to retain the trophy.

The Knights won the cup last year after they had completed their programme when the Warriors beat Lightning in the final match of the season, but this time they must win it on the field with victories at The Lawn on Sunday September 14 and in the return at Rathmines the following Saturday.

Lightning flew in two of their "big guns" from county cricket in England on Saturday and Andrew Balbirnie and Stuart Poynter – in the frame for Ireland's pre-World Cup tour to Australia and New Zealand next month – duly scored 118 of their side's 158 runs.

Balbirnie celebrated signing a new two-year contract with Middlesex by scoring 88 – his last 39 coming off just 13 balls with a four and four sixes – while Poynter was just as impressive, most of his 30 runs, off 18 balls, coming before rain reduced the game to the helter skelter of a 28 overs match.

Because Warriors had taken only one wicket before the Lightning innings was interrupted for the second and final time, they were set a target of 215, at almost eight runs an over.

To their credit they were consistently up with the run rate but ran out of wickets with five overs unused.

Stuart Thompson, a certainty for the Ireland squad which leaves on September 23, matched Poynter run for run and ball for ball while David Rankin and Gary McClintock both got into the 40s at a strike rate of better than 100.

The Warriors' lower-order, though, was blown away as they tried to maintain the momentum with six of the bowlers used by John Mooney taking wickets.

The Ireland squad to face Scotland in the three-match ODI series against Scotland in Malahide on September 8, 10 and 12 is due to be announced this week and although 15 of the tour party will be known before those games, the rest will be playing for the final three lucrative places.

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