LEINSTER Lightning won the first RSA Inter-provincial title of the season yesterday – the Twenty20 Trophy – as if there ever had been any doubt!
While the Northern Knights used up 18 overs to complete a five wickets win over the North West Warriors at Bready yesterday, despite chasing only 93, the Lightning squad, captained by Kevin O'Brien, showed all their class in amassing 192 for 5 in the second game. A 106 runs victory over the outclassed and vastly less experienced Warriors side only underlined the difference in class between the teams.
No-one is, or should have been, surprised. The Knights, who shocked an under-performing Lighting squad with a T20 victory at Comber last week, can proudly say they lost out on the title only on run rate, but there is no reason why they should have finished level on points with this international-studded line-up.
With a middle order of Max Sorensen – ideal for this shortest format with the bat – Kevin O'Brien, John Mooney and Eddie Richardson, they have a quartet which would walk into either of the other two teams, in virtually any position and they only get to the middle when Reinhardt Strydom, Bill Coghlan and Pat Collins, who have been scoring runs for fun in club cricket this season, get out.
Strydom, who hasn't been in Ireland colours since 2009, scored 35 of Leinster's first 43 runs before he gloved one through to the wicket-keeper in the fourth over! When Jason Milligan took a superb catch to dismiss Andrew Poynter, it was the Knights' biggest biggest mistake of the day because it let Sorensen to the middle.
He scored 38 off 27 balls but even that was just the warm-up act for O'Brien and Mooney who hit 51 off the last four overs.
O'Brien, less than 48 hours after his T20 debut for Surrey and just five days before he joins up with Trinidad for the inaugural Caribbean Premier League, was in the mood, hitting four sixes, including three off the last over by Peter Connell in his 14-ball 36, an innings which made Mooney's 19 from 14 balls positively sluggish.
And with both internationals finishing unbeaten the Lightning didn't even need Richardson who on Saturday had scored a run-a-ball 121 for North County.
It was Richardson who finally put the Warriors out of their misery, taking the last wicket in the penultimate over but only after Tyrone Kane had shown the bowling talent waiting in the wings, taking three wickets in 11 balls to finish as the game's leading wicket-taker. O'Brien and Mooney bowled only three overs. The Warriors' day got off to a bad start when captain Niall McDonnell was forced to pull out after injuring himself on Saturday. That left the top order, which included two debutants, even more exposed and the Knights, who maintained their policy of starting with spin at both ends, struck four times in the first six overs.
Andy McBrine and Scott Campbell led a recovery of sorts, putting on 34 for the fifth wicket but when David Simpson yorked McBrine with his fourth ball, the tail folded quietly, all out off the last ball with only a further 35 runs coming in the last eight overs.
The Knights, trying to improve their run-rate, were halfway to their target by the start of the seventh over but when Jamie Holmes was dismissed in the eighth over, suddenly it was safety first and the Knights were, in the end, just content to force Lightning to win the last match. How easy was that!