Warriors flex muscles but still face an uphill battle
North West Warriors enjoyed another wonderful day at Pembroke yesterday, but it will still need a herculean effort to claim their first three-day victory over inter-provincial champions Leinster Lightning.
After converting their overnight 358-3 - already their highest total in the Championship - to 509-9 declared, the highest by any side, they reduced the star-studded Lightning batting to 256-8 at the close, the wickets shared by all six bowlers.
The hosts still need an unlikely 104 to avoid the follow-on, which would appear the Warriors' only route to victory, but claiming 12 wickets on the final day will still be a huge ask. Can they really expect Ed Joyce, John Anderson, Kevin O'Brien, Simi Singh and even George Dockrell to fail second time around?
But Warriors have done all that skipper Andy McBrine has asked of them so far and, on the day the Ireland selectors met to select the squad for next week's Test match, Craig Young stepped up with three excellent spells.
With the last ball of his first over, he forced Joyce into a mistimed pull and Ross Allen held a good running catch from mid-on. He also had opening partner Jack Tector, on 12, dropped at third slip by McBrine, but it wouldn't have counted as Young had overstepped. He deservedly claimed a second wicket with the ball of the day which clipped the outside edge of Sean Terry's bat.
Boyd Rankin was more expensive than normal, but he is always capable of a wicket-taking delivery, and John Anderson was caught from a lifting ball down the leg side by brother David, who was keeping wicket because Niall O'Brien was unwell.
Stuart Thompson was unable to follow up his batting heroics with the ball, his only wicket coming in his 10th over when he had already conceded 60 runs, but the Warriors' best bowler was the captain, who finished the day with four successive maidens to give him 14 overs, one wicket (Kevin O'Brien beaten in the flight) for 10 runs. His place in the Test squad is secure, at the expense of Dockrell.
Warriors had batted through the morning with Thompson and Niall O'Brien - fit to bat - taking their record partnership to 308, and the Rankin brothers, batting together, enjoyed themselves as the Lightning bowlers suffered more pain.
NORTH WEST WARRIORS 1st INNINGS
(overnight 358-3 (A Gillespie 57)
N O'Brien c Kane b Dockrell 165
S Thompson c Joyce b K O'Brien 148
A McBrine c Tucker b K O'Brien 10
D Rankin not out 52
R Allen b Dockrell 3
B Rankin c Singh b Dockrell 21
C Young lbw b Kane 3
D Scanlon not out 10
Extras (3b 9lb 8w 2nb) 22
Total (9 wkts dec, 137 overs) 359
Fall: 1-7 2-26 3-93 4-401 5-415 6-417 7-420 8-455 9-489
Bowling: T Kane 28-6-96-2 P Chase 30-3-156-2 K O'Brien 22-5-49-2 G Dockrell 29-3-120-3 Simi Singh 27-7-73-0, J Anderson 1-0-3-0