Ballymena endured a miserable Premier League weekend, losing twice in two days in horrifically cold and windy conditions at Eaton Park.
First, in a rearranged 47-overs match against title contenders CIYMS on Friday, the local side, missing six regular players, was beaten by 8 wickets.
Stand-in skipper Michael Glass won the toss and chose to bat first and, although Michael Taylor and Matthew Dick survived the opening spells of Nigel Jones and Jonny Thompson, progress was slow and, in time, wickets began to fall.
Taylor committed the cardinal sin of ‘giving it away’, having done the hard work, and on 24 he spliced a long-hop to mid-wicket.
Pakistani professional Azeem Ghumman then continued his fine form with the bat, making 46 before he was dismissed in a manner identical to Taylor.
Following Ghumman’s departure with the score on 118, Ballymena collapsed in an embarrassing fashion, scraping to 142-8 in their allotted overs.
Then, when bowling to CIYMS’s opening batsmen, Chris Dougherty and Rassie van der Dussen, Ballymena struggled to control the scoring rate as a string of full tosses and no balls were punished appropriately.
Although both batsmen were eventually caught in the leg-side, an unbeaten 31 from Ulster Schools captain John Matchett saw CIYMS to their target with more than 20 overs to spare.
The local side fared little better on Saturday against Civil Service North, losing to the east Belfast club by 48 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis method.
Batting first after returning captain James Kennedy won the toss, Ballymena soon lost Jack Gibson and John Glass to former Ballymena bowler Allen Coulter, while Taylor was again guilty of making a start (24) then getting out.
Ghumman was joined by Kennedy for the fourth wicket, this pair put on 51 in only 9 overs as they went after the CSN slow bowlers.
Yet when Kennedy was caught behind for 30 from 45 balls with the score on 120, another batting collapse saw five wickets fall for just 15 runs.
Only veteran wicket-keeper Neil Fullerton played with the requisite intelligence and technique to stay with Ghumman, who was caught at long-off in the last over for an excellent 61 from 89 balls. The local side at least batted their 50 overs, totalling 171 for 9.
Needing early wickets, Ballymena were thwarted by CSN opener Wayne Horwood, who bludgeoned 42 off only 26 deliveries.
Ballymena lacked the penetration to break the CSNI partnerships but one positive note was the bowling of 16-year-old Sam Glass, who dismissed Paddy Beverland and CSN captain Andrew Cowden, the latter thanks to an outstanding catch by Fullerton. These two defeats – coupled with Carrickfergus’s shock win over CIYMS – means Ballymena are right back in a relegation dogfight.