Ballymena’s cricketers succumbed to yet another Premier League defeat at the weekend, going down by eight wickets to title-chasing Instonians at Eaton Park.
With opening batsmen Jack Gibson and Michael Taylor failing again, and with captain James Kennedy registering a rare low score, it was once more left to the club’s Pakistani professional, Azeem Ghumman, to hold together the Ballymena innings.
Ghumman batted beautifully and sensibly for an unbeaten 77 that included six fours and one six. He received significant support only from Alan Dundas (18), who formerly played senior cricket with Waringstown, and Michael Glass, who made 12 from number nine.
Ballymena eventually scraped to 141, a total which – even on a slow and low pitch – was never likely to be challenging.
And so it proved. Although Matthew Purse had the dangerous Neil Russell caught at slip, and although Sam Glass picked up another senior wicket when he bowled Nicolai Smith off the bottom edge, Instonians cruised home with eight wickets and more than sixteen overs in hand.
The home side’s fielding was woeful, with at least four simple chances being missed and numerous balls going straight through fielders’ legs. The margin of defeat was fully deserved.
With Lisburn beating CSNI by 10 wickets on Sunday, Ballymena now find themselves in a straight fight with Carrickfergus for survival in the Premier League. This week the local side face a daunting trip to Waringstown.
While Ballymena’s 1st XI cricketers have not enjoyed much success on the pitch so far this year, there was cause for celebration when Robert McKinley – the all-rounder who joined the club in 2011 – was selected for the Northern Knights for their three-day match against Leinster Lightning that takes places this week at Stormont.
McKinley has spent much of the last two summers in England, trying to break into Leicestershire’s professional set-up, and his rapid development was made clear when took four wickets last week against Lisburn.