McCollum is delighted to show that he can deliver
James McCollum was the Northern Knights' unlikely bowling star as he chose the first day of the inter-provincial match against North West Warriors at Bready to claim his debut first-class wicket and turn it into a maiden five-wicket haul in senior cricket.
The Waringstown all-rounder, as we must now call him, has been starring with the bat in recent weeks, scoring 170 for Ireland Wolves to put his name in the frame for an international debut against Afghanistan next month, but to take five wickets in just 10 overs proves he has another string to his bow.
"I probably bowled more overs in that one spell than I have done all season for Waringstown," said McCollum last night. "But you come up to the North West, the softer wickets suit my dibbly-dobbly bowling which is hard to get away.
"But to get Andy McBrine caught at second slip, that will stick in the memory."
The Warriors came into their final Championship game needing victory and five bonus points to win the title for the first time and, despite McCollum's heroics, they are still on course having picked up two batting bonus points. They need only five more wickets today to claim their required bonus points.
But after closing the longest day of the season - stumps were drawn at 7.55pm after an 11am start - on 96-2, the Knights are just 130 runs behind and McCollum believes they are well ahead with two days to play.
"Their last-wicket partnership went for 30-40 which was frustrating, but we are in the box seat so it has been a good day for us," he added.
It was always going to be an "insertion" day, so it was first blood to Knights - who gave debuts to Carrickfergus opening bowler Matty McCord and Civil Service North batsman Aaron Wright - when Shane Getkate won the toss and had no hesitation in asking Warriors to bat, influenced no doubt by their recent batting travails which has led to four consecutive defeats this month.
It was nearly the worst possible start and best imaginable for McCord, who with his first ball in first-class cricket almost held a return catch from Ireland Test captain William Porterfield. But it would not have counted as he had overstepped, the first of nine no-balls by the Knights.
At lunch, the Warriors could probably say they had just the better of the first session, having reached 103-3 - but McCollum had bowled only two overs and already claimed Aaron Gillespie as his maiden first-class dismissal.
McCollum was only bowling because of the chronic list of injuries to Knights' pace bowlers, but seven overs later he had figures of 5-29 with three internationals - Niall O'Brien, who played on; Stuart Thompson, spectacularly caught in the gully by James Cameron-Dow; and McBrine - his latest victims.
When he ripped through the defence of Graham Kennedy, he had first-class figures bettered by no one else in the match.
That "annoying" last-wicket stand between Ross Allen and David Scanlon was actually 37, but it gave Warriors what could prove a valuable second batting point, and hopes they would add to it in the 36 overs Knights faced last night were thwarted by Mark Ellison.
The CSN opener had scored only 15 runs in his previous four Championship innings but he resumes this morning 62 not out, having already hit the only three sixes of the innings and finally showing why the selectors have persevered with him.
McCollum couldn't follow up his bowling heroics with the bat, but he will have a second chance and has already put a dent in the Warriors' title ambitions.