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Inst win a thriller to stay in title race


All together now: Instonians players celebrating after their dramatic win over Waringstown

All together now: Instonians players celebrating after their dramatic win over Waringstown

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

All together now: Instonians players celebrating after their dramatic win over Waringstown

The Ulster Bank Premier League title race goes on after Instonians moved within four points of leaders Waringstown, with a thrilling one wicket victory in front of a bumper crowd at The Lawn yesterday.

No 11 batsman Andrew Forbes hit the winning run off the second ball of the last over to keep alive Instonians' hopes of winning the title outright for the first time since 1962. They must beat Lisburn in their next game, probably on Thursday night, to set up a winner-take-all decider with Waringstown at a date and venue to be confirmed.

Shaws Bridge, Instonians' home ground, is unavailable next weekend so if the teams agree to play a 50 overs 'refix' for their abandoned game on Saturday, everyone may have to wait two weeks before the Premier League is decided. If either team wants a 20-overs game, however, a mid-week date is likely to settle the top prize in the NCU.

Imad Wasim, the Instonians professional, will miss the last two games as he returns to Pakistan tomorrow but James Shannon, who again watched yesterday's game on crutches, could return, another incentive for the Belfast side to delay the rearranged game.

Wasim's last innings ended in controversial fashion when he was given out lbw to Kyle McCallan – he claimed he hit the ball, the bowler and umpire agreed it was pad first – but that was long forgotten as the tension-filled game reached its dramatic conclusion.

At 69 for five, chasing Waringstown's below-par 154, it looked as if the Villagers would clinch the title in front of their home fans.

But the experience of Andrew White and Ben Wylie, who played in this year's university match for Cambridge, added 51 for the sixth wicket to make Instonians favourites to prolong the agony.

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But Phil Eaglestone ended the partnership, having White caught at slip immediately after reaching his 50 and although James Hall then conceded 11 off an over, Waringstown skipper Lee Nelson claimed the wickets of Wylie and Stephen Bunting to reduce Instonians to 134 for eight in the 44th over.

Schoolboy Lewis McNamara joined Zach Rushe and they scrambled another 15 invaluable runs for the ninth wicket before Rushe's attempted pull went straight up for keeper Jonathan Bushe to put Waringstown within one wicket of the title.

Forbes and McNamara had been here before – yesterday, in fact, batting for Instonians II against Waringstown II – but how would they cope with the Premier League championship at stake? A lucky four, deflected to thirdman and missed by James Mitchell, got them four runs closer and left two runs to get off the last over.

It looked to be all over with the first ball when a leading edge from Forbes seemed destined for Nelson's hands at mid-wicket but the skipper slipped going for the catch, the ball landed safely and the last pair scampered the single to tie the scores.

Next ball, Forbes coolly cut it to backward point and by the time the batsmen had completed the run, they had been joined by the rest of the Instonians team in an ecstatic pitch invasion. They live to fight another day.

It was reward for a fine bowling performance by Instonians who, apart from a fourth wicket stand between Nelson and Kyle McCallan of 88, held a stranglehold on the nervous Waringstown batsmen.

Indeed, apart from McCallan's 60, off 102 balls, and Nelson's 52 from 99, only one other player reached double figures and only one of the rest scored more than four, as all five front-line bowlers shared the wickets.

The minimum margin for the result confirms there is nothing between the teams, because Saturday's game was also heading for an exciting finish with Instonians on 72 for two in the 15th over, chasing a revised target of 167 in 30, when the rain prematurely ended the game.

Only one match was completed in the Premier League on Saturday, Muckamore completing their first win at the final attempt after bowling out Ballymena for 90 for an eight wickets success.

Fox won't give up the struggle to avoid drop

FOX Lodge broke their Premiership duck yesterday at the 11th time of asking, beating Bready by six runs to give themselves the chance of beating the drop.

Their fate could still be settled on Saturday when they visit championship contenders Strabane, and even if they could pull off a shock there they would still need to win their last two games against Ardmore and Eglinton just to force a possible play-off.

However, one Ardmore win from their last four games would end even that slim hope because they are now the only team they can catch, after Eglinton's 81 runs win over Ardmore which was sealed by a sensational 168 not out by international Stuart Thompson.

The Ireland all-rounder hit 10 fours and eight sixes in his innings which propelled Eglinton from 22 for two to 250 for four and he followed up with eight overs at a cost of just nine runs.

Fox Lodge's bowlers won their game at Bready, restricting the home side to 90 for five in 26 overs, which left Bready six runs short of the D/L par score when the rain arrived.

At the top of the table, Brigade's surprise defeat to Donemana on Saturday let Strabane back into the title race and, with both winning yesterday, it is all to play for with Brigade, two points clear, having two games left – against Bready and Ardmore – with Strabane still to play Fox Lodge, Coleraine and Saturday's abandoned game at Ardmore.

Meanwhile, Carrickfergus completed a hat-trick of trophies with an eight wickets victory over Downpatrick. The Twenty20 trophy and National Cup winners added the Ulster Shield yesterday, chasing down the visitors' 153 with 7.3 overs to spare, Indrajeet Kamtekar taking five wickets and scoring 31 not out.


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