The quarter-finalists in the NCU Challenge Cup will have to wait another nine days before they learn their opponents but all the familiar names will be in the hat after the heavyweights asserted their superiority in Saturday’s second round action.
North Down, the team that dominated the last decade in the competition started the new one in particularly awesome fashion with a first wicket stand of 247 and it wasn’t on the batting paradise that is The Green. Rather it was Eaton Park, renowned for totals of 200 being a winning one, which was the venue for Neil Russell and Andrew Sutherland to enjoy themselves as they both posted centuries.
Russell, thanks to a couple of dropped catches before he reached 40, finished on a tired 123, from 126 balls but Sutherland produced a chanceless 105 off one ball more.
Both were out within three balls of each other but it still left eight overs for their team-mates to continue the carnage as a further 93 runs were scored, including half a dozen sixes, just one fewer than in the whole of the opening stand.
It is the highest score at Eaton Park for 23 years, since Collegians were on the receiving end of 345 when the cup was played over 60 overs. Ballymena’s could manage only 195 in reply.
No other side threatened 300 but there was still some impressive scoring around the NCU in the batting-friendly conditions. Holywood were next best with 276 for six against Woodvale, as Seamus Sharkey (109) and Charl Daubney (92) added 156 for the second wicket, and holders Instonians hit 257 for four including 91 by Davy Jacobs and 79 from Rory McCann in their 49 runs win over Lurgan.
Lisburn completed a hat-trick of wins over Downpatrick after making 252 for six, CIYMS needed only two wickets and 43 overs to pass Muckamore’s 214 despite Jason van der Merwe’s 101 for the losers and in the most exciting game of the day, Bangor and Civil Service North shared 464 runs at Upritchard Park, the Premier League side going through on fewer wickets lost, a misfield off the last ball allowing the visitors to tie the scores.