Ballymena’s cricketers succumbed to yet another Irish Cup defeat on Saturday, losing to north-west side Ardmore by 3 wickets.
It means that for the seventh successive year, the Eaton Park outfit will not be in the draw for the second round.
for the first time in a long time, however, the local side put in a decent performance in this white-ball competition.
Having won the toss and chosen to bat on a dry pitch, Ballymena were soon reduced to 1-2 as Jack Gibson and Michael Taylor fell to the gentle in-swing of Connor Brolly. Pakistani professional Azeem Ghumman and captain James Kennedy then rebuilt the innings, but when the latter was stumped for 19 and when 14-year-old John Glass was bowled for 6, Ballymena were struggling again at 62-4.
Ghumman and William Montgomery - clearly enjoying his new position at no. 6 - went about rescuing the situation and built a half-century stand. The Pakistani recorded his second 50 in as many matches, while Montgomery made 28 including three fours.
From 113-4, however, the home side collapsed to 126 all out as former international bowler Gary Neely blew away the tail with figures of 5-12.
Early wickets were essential but only one was forthcoming as Ardmore repeatedly built useful partnerships, with Zimbabwean professional Forster Murtizwa striking the ball cleanly en route to 35.
Yet when the most prolific run-scorer in the history of Irish cricket, Dekker Curry, was bowled by Ghumman for 18, and when two wickets fell for one run at the hundred mark, Ballymena threatened to drag themselves back into the contest.
Neely, though, remained at the crease and his unbeaten 13 was enough to take Ardmore to their target with more than twelve overs to spare. Despite a good bowling performance, 126 was always too small a total.
This week Ballymena travel twice to east Belfast. First to big-spending CIYMS in the Twenty20 Cup on Tuesday night and then to CSNI in the Ulster Bank Challenge Cup on Saturday. Steve Lazars - who missed the Ardmore match - returns for both games.