Ballymena’s senior cricketers registered their first victory of the Ulster Bank Premier League season on Saturday at Eaton Park.
James Kennedy’s side had the comfortable margin of 67 runs to spare in beating Lisburn.
In what was touted as a pivotal fixture in this season’s relegation battle, Ballymena won the toss and chose to bat first on a dry pitch. Opening with Michael Taylor and Jack Gibson, the home side made its best start for a number of matches as the pair put on 56 for the first wicket.
Gibson then fell lbw for an accomplished 29 and when Steve Lazars was caught at point for 5, Ballymena were in the precarious position of 91-3. From here, however, professional Azeem Ghumman and captain James Kennedy played two innings that may well go some distance to securing Ballymena’s survival in the top flight of local cricket.
Ghumman enjoyed some luck – he was bowled off a no ball delivered by Lisburn’s professional, Darryl Brown, and was soon after dropped at mid-wicket – but he capitalized on this good fortune, driving and cutting beautifully on his way to an excellent 84.
He and Kennedy, who was unbeaten on a well made 56, put on 130 for the fourth wicket and Ballymena finished on 232-5. Lisburn’s best bowler was former Ballymena player Carl Williams, who delivered his ten overs for only 27 runs, while picking up the wicket of Gibson.
Confident in the knowledge that no visiting side has ever chased more than 200 in the Premier League, Ballymena then made an ideal start with the ball when Matthew Purse had Lisburn captain David Simpson caught at square-leg by Steve Lazars.
Robert Rankin and Ricky Simpson, however, then scored quickly to put on 76 for the second wicket before both fell to home side’s spin attack. In between their dismissals, Ghumman capped a great day by taking a brilliant slip catch off the bowling of Lazars to see off the dangerous Brown.
Even so, despite Ballymena taking regular wickets, Lisburn reached 145-5 at the start of the batting power play and the match was hanging in the balance. From here, though, Fergus Taylor and Gibson – completing a fine all-round performance – produced some of their best bowling in a long time to kill the game.
The former, who finished with the outstanding figures of 3 for 8, hit the stumps twice and had another catch held by his brother in the deep, while Gibson picked up one wicket before Steve Lazars dismissed Williams – caught by Kennedy at cover – to close the innings.
Although Ballymena were playing against considerably weaker opposition than in recent weeks, this was also one of the local side’s best performances in recent years, with all members of the team contributing.