Ballymena Down and out of Senior Cup
BLACK kit seems to equate to dark days in the life of Ballymena 1st XI. Four times they have worn their new regulation 'coloured clothing' in cup competitions and each time they have sweltered in the sun on the way to defeat.
Saturday's Senior Cup game was the gloomiest day of the lot, however, as North Down left Eaton Park with the victory, having plundered one of the biggest totals ever scored at the ground in the process.
Due to the heat and the nature of the pitch and outfield, the 'toss' was crucial and even before a ball was bowled captain James Kennedy described it as "potentially the worst toss I have ever lost'' and how right he was!
Ballymena's lack of penetration with the ball was exposed yet again as the North Down openers put on a mammoth 247 for the first wicket. Russell (123) and Sutherland (112) smashed the hometown bowling to all parts.
Even on their departure however there was no respite for Ballymena as Haire (30), Harding (21) and Khan (22) despatched the ball over the boundary rope on no fewer than 15 occasions! The innings eventually closed with North Down having scored 340 for 6 from their allotted 50 overs.
Ballymena's batting line up is strong but for any team to chase down over 340 is a tall order and they required a solid start.
Runs came quickly and the run rate was always close to what was required however with such a daunting total, risks had to be taken and as a result, the wickets tumbled.
First Carl Williams (8) was trapped LBW to a ball which struck him full on the toe and then, Gavin McKenna got his revenge on Robert Kennedy (12), clean bowling him one ball after Kennedy had lofted the ball straight back over his head for six.
Overseas professional, Aphale (17) scored freely before a mix up with David Kennedy, saw him run out for 17. Kennedy brothers David (48) and James (15) put on 61 for the 4th wicket, which saw the score rise to 118 but when they both departed within successive deliveries, the run chase was virtually over.
Ballymena showed their strength and depth with the bat however as Kirkpatrick (15) and McDowell (34*) helped them take their score up to 193 at the close.
Cup cricket has now finished for another season at Eaton Park but this may be a blessing in disguise as the senior squad can now focus their attention purely on surviving in the Premier league.
June is a crucial month for the players with a number of 'relegation battles' due to take place, starting this weekend when Lisburn will be the visitors to Eaton Park. The match will begin at 1pm.
Ballymena Seconds bowed out of the Junior Cup at Eaton Park on Saturday, but not before giving holders Academy an almighty scare.
Chasing 165 for victory, the Mallusk-based men scraped over the winning line with one wicket to spare as Neil Fullerton's men almost proved that anything's possible in cricket.
With two runs needed for victory and four wickets in hand, the result looked a formality. But then in the space of three overs the home side claimed three wickets for the addition of just one run, thanks to two wickets from Paul Black and a run out, executed superbly by Jack Gibson from short fine leg.
Frustratingly for Ballymena, the one run they conceded was a no ball from David Thompson and when the same bowler over-stepped the mark again in the next over, the Eaton Park men were denied the chance of a remarkable tie.
Earlier in the day, some poor shot selection and execution, saw Ballymena collapse from 39 for one to 57 for six and it was left to all-rounder Richard White to dig them out of a hole
Together with Fullerton (21), White, who was last man out for 70, added 65 for the seventh wicket, and then a further 42 with No.10 Adam Jackson (16).
The former Ards man and brother of Irish international Andrew, was at the crease for 39 overs and struck seven boundaries in his patient innings.
Ballymena needed early wickets, but due to some poor bowling, Academy were allowed to reach 88 for two and 141 for five, before the nerves started to show.
Thompson (two for 42), Jackson (two for 51) and Black (2 for none) all got among the wickets but in the end Ballymena's total - which was 40 runs short of par on such a glorious summer's day - was just within reach of the visitors.
Ballymena Thirds completed a tense three-wicket win over a previously unbeaten Waringstown side at Ballymena Academy on Saturday.
The visitors won the toss and chose to bat on the hottest day of the summer so far but they lost three quick wickets to Moe Vergee and Trevor McBurney, both of whom bowled with pace and menace.
Waringstown’s middle order staged something of a recovery, taking full advantage of injuries to McBurney and Paul Campbell. It was James Russell who finished with the most impressive figures of 3 for 18 off 7 overs. With four sixes being hit off the last over, Waringstown finished on 136 for 9 off 35 overs.
The Ballymena reply got off to the worst possible start with the top four batsman managing just 8 runs between them. Again it was the middle order of Vergee, McGookin and Lytle who dug in to bring the game back to Ballymena, debutant Vergee finally being dismissed for a classy 47. It was left to Paul Campbell to smash two fours and a six to win the game, Richard McNeill finishing on a valuable 8 not out.
This week the Thirds will be away to Muckamore in the second round of the Minor Cup.
Ballymena Fourths travelled to Shaws Bridge with a good blend of experience and youth to face Instonians who always pose a stiff challenge in a competitive league.
Having won the toss Colin McClean, who was returning to skipper the side, decided to bat on a perfect batting strip.
Ali Gibson and Michael Caithness provided a solid start before Gibson was out caught in bizarre fashion, with the ball lodging in the armpit of the opposition slip!
Stuart Watt showed that he will be an asset to the fourths with a good, patient but well paced half century, while supported by Caithness who exhibited maturity and patience exceeding his age before falling for a valuable 21. Watt ended on 55 not out in a good total of 121 for 3 off 25 overs.
Instonians set off at a brisk pace chasing a challenging total but Nicky Jolly showed great pace ( 2 for 14) and Chris Barr, an excellent medium pacer with 2 for 22, set the scene for Ali Gibson and Michael Caithness to take 2 wickets each before Simon Law wiped up the tail to have Instonians all out for 97 for Ballymena to have a comfortable 24 run win.
Special mention should be made for Justin Jolly's stumping , made in the blink of an eye!
An excellent team performance in all aspects of the game, coupled with a great spirit, which will hopefully give the team confidence before next weeks home Cup game against Cregagh Thirds.
Premier League - Ballymena v Lisburn (Eaton Park, 1pm)
Division Two Section One - Lisburn II v Ballymena II (Wallace Park, 1pm)
Lindsay Minor Cup second round - Muckamore III v Ballymena III
Minor Qualifying Cup first round - Cregagh III v Ballymena IV
Ballymena Academy under 12s remain unbeaten in the league this year as they strolled to an impressive 105 run win over Coleraine Inst. Once again it was Jack Archer who dominated with the bat, scoring his third 50 of the season. Ballymena finished on 133 off 20 overs. In reply, Coleraine were dismissed for 28. Josh Bill claimed 4 wickets for 11 while Peter McKane, Josh Scott, Andrew Reid and Marcus Rea all picked up wickets. The young Academy side will make it a clean sweep in the league if they can win away to Dalriada next Saturday.