Hal stars for Waringstown in stunning T20 Cup success
Waringstown retained the Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup after James Hal treated the bumper crowd at The Lawn with an unbeaten century which the power hitters of North Down could not match.
It was always game on while Ruan Pretorius, who had scored a 53-ball century in the semi-final, was in the middle and even after the South African professional's dismissal for 59, Neil Russell and Peter Davison threatened to keep the Comber side in the high-scoring contest to the final over.
But a victory target of 195 and a run rate of 14 runs an over for the last four proved too much as the accuracy of Gary Kidd, the perseverance of Kyle McCallan and the wicket-taking ability of Shaheen Khan eased Waringstown to a 26 runs success.
The win also sends them into All-Ireland finals day as the NCU representatives on August 20 and, as nominated hosts, they will have the other provincial T20 winners Bready, Cork County and Clontarf as their visitors. By then they could also be in the Irish Cup final and as current joint leaders of the Gardiner Bros Premier League it's a season which is gathering momentum for Waringstown at the perfect time.
Yesterday's action was T20 cricket at its best on a pitch which while not perfect because there was so much rain in the last few days, produced 362 runs and offered some turn.
Hall played the perfect innings, bringing up his first 50 in 34 balls with two fours and three sixes and then accelerated through his second 50 in just 19 balls with another six boundaries, every one of them clearing the rope.
Shaheen's strike rate of 254 left everything else in the shade however (33 off 13 balls) and his four wickets must have given the man of the match adjudicator a more difficult task than he can have expected at halfway.
Kidd, who had taken seven wickets for nine runs in the previous game between the teams just three weeks ago, still had the psychological edge over the North Down batsmen, especially after his first ball spun past the bat.
He conceded just three runs off each of his first three overs and finished with one for 15 but it was the experienced Kyle McCallan who claimed the big wicket of Pretorius, his former team-mate, caught off the leading edge the ball after his sixth maximum.
The Cup final was the second match of the day at The Lawn but only Jarred Barnes, unsurprisingly, was in the same class in the T20 Trophy decider as his all-round display ensured a straightforward five wickets win for Armagh against Woodvale.
The former Coleraine and North West Warriors opening bowler, now plying his trade in Section One, had figures of 4-1-5-4 as Woodvale struggled to 91 for nine and with Barnes finishing 33 not out, Armagh won with 29 balls to spare.
Back in the Premier League it was a superb weekend for Muckamore who claimed the scalps of next Saturday's Challenge Cup finalists, following up their 63 runs victory over title hopefuls CIYMS with that of defending league champions Instonians by the crushing margin of 97 runs.
The wins leapfrog Muckamore over Instonians who have only Lisburn (four points) below them in the table as James Shannon joined Shane Getkate on the injury list.
Their absence proved fatal to their title defence as Waringstown beat them off the last ball on Saturday and Ifti Hussain's run-a-ball 145 (15 fours and a six) propelled Muckamore to 270 for seven. With a highest partnership of 45, Instonians never got close.
LVS T20 Cup Final
The Lawn: Waringstown 194-4 (J Hall 101 not out, G Thompson 40, S Khan 33) North Down 168-8 (R Pretorius 59, D Graham 32, P Eakin 21; S Khan 4-31, K McCallan 2-43). Waringstown won by 26 runs.
T20 Trophy Final
The Lawn: Woodvale 91-9 (F Saeed 30, J Barnes 4-5, A Hoey 2-7, H Doyle 2-9) Armagh 92-5 (15.1 overs, J Barnes 33 not out). T Hill 2-8, A Khan 2-32). Armagh won by 5 wickets.
Gardiner Bros Premier League
Shaw's Bridge: Muckamore 270-7 (I Hussain 145, C Drummond 44, A Adey 33, R Haire 20; Nat Smith 2-45, J Magee 2-47) Instonians 173 (40.3, A White 42, R McKinley 30; , I Hussain 3-34, G Nicholl 2-16, R Haire 2-27). Muckamore won by 97 runs.