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Balbirnie eyeing ton but draw is looming



James Shannon

James Shannon

James Shannon

The batsmen continue to dominate the bowlers on a flat Sydney Parade pitch, which seems set to host its second inter-provincial draw of the year.

Only 26 wickets fell when champions North West Warriors visited here at the start of the season, and four months on, nothing has changed with only 13 taken by the Leinster Lightning and Northern Knights bowlers in the first two days.

Despite seven batsmen reaching 50, we are still awaiting our first century, but few would bet against Andrew Balbirnie breaking the sequence this morning to add to the unbeaten 114 he scored against Warriors.

He needs 19 more, having already reached the landmark of 1,000 first-class runs in this innings, but having seen Jack Tector dismissed for 87 yesterday afternoon, and Mark Adair following James McCollum as casualties in the 90s, he will be taking nothing for granted.

Unsurprisingly, Knights skipper James Shannon decided to bat on in the morning, with Adair 75 not out. After hitting Eddie Richardson for two fours and a six in the first five overs, he had moved to within nine runs of his maiden century.

However, he had faced only two balls from Josh Little in the left-armer's first two overs, and the extra pace caught him unawares when he attempted to pull him to the mid-wicket boundary. Instead, the ball just looped up and the bowler had time to take the catch on his follow-through.

It was to be the only wicket in the morning session as Jack Tector and Stephen Doheny put on 89 without much trouble by lunch, with the Rush batsman the first to his 50, from 104 balls.

Three balls later, perhaps relaxing after reaching the landmark, he pushed forward to Gary Kidd and found the safe hands of Chris Dougherty at slip.

Tector brought up his half century from 114 balls in the next over and would go on to pass his previous best first-class score of 75 before driving too early at Shane Getkate and giving a simple catch to cover.

The best batting had still to come, however, with Balbirnie and John Anderson both showing their class in a stand of 66 for the third wicket before umpire Jonathan Kennedy judged that James Cameron-Dow had found the edge of Anderson's bat and was caught at the wicket; the batsman did not appear to agree.

Simi Singh was the most attacking of the Lightning batsmen but he played one shot too many against the second new ball and was caught at second slip for a run-a-ball 26.

The last 16 overs was the best cricket of the day, with Nathan Smith and Adair testing Balbirnie and George Dockrell, and the batsmen just about came out on top.

Both Cameron-Dow and Kidd have been getting turn and keeping their opponents under pressure, their 48 overs going for well under three runs an over, and unluckily for the Knights, Harry Tector sustained a hip injury which has deprived Shannon of his third slow bowler.

So the draw the likely result, but there are still plenty of individuals battles to be won today.

Belfast Telegraph