Ballymena Cricket Club Second XI completed a memorable season when they clinched the Junior League Two title last week.
With only ten balls left and playing their 14th game of the season, the Eaton Park side beat Carrick by 6 wickets to secure the championship.
In a somewhat nervous game for the Ballymena players, Carrick won the toss and decided to bat.
On a dark evening and having to bat second, Ballymena were immediately on the back foot. However as in so many occasions throughout the summer, the bowlers got off to a great start.
Owen Dick and Matthew Purse as usual bowled with accuracy and venom and both of them took early wickets. Continuing to put Carrick under pressure, the slower combination of Andrew Craig and John Glass worked well. Anthony Fraser continued his good form for the Second XI bowling 4 overs, taking 1 wicket for only 13 runs. Carrick finished up on 90, with their captain John Stewart being the only player to have threatened throughout their innings.
In reply, Ballymena got off to a solid start with Montgomery and Colgan producing a partnership of 28. Not long after Colgan’s dismissal William Montgomery departed for zero. However David Montgomery and Matthew Dick continued to build a strong partnership of 45. Nearing the target of 91 it was unfortunate for both David and Matthew to be dismissed, but it was great to see Trevor McBurney, one of the senior players in the squad, hit the winning runs.
In reflection, this has been a remarkable turnaround for a side who found themselves on the verge of relegation this time last year.
Team captain Stephen Colgan points to the “super” week in the month of June when his side won four games in a week as being a game changer in their quest to win the league.
More importantly though Stephen suggests the overall team spirit, and player commitment, was the main catalyst for their success this year.
Senior players such as David Montgomery, Simon McDowell, and Trevor McBurney still play at a high standard, and Neil Fullerton, remains one of the best wicketkeepers in Ireland.
The younger generation of Jonathan Browne, Sam and John Glass, and Owen Dick are talented, committed, ultra-competitive and will lead the club in the future.
One player did stand out this year and Andrew Craig will no doubt be proud of his performance. His accuracy and control of the ball throughout the season was first class, and he certainly belongs at this level of cricket.