In a weekend that saw the absence of twelve senior players through work commitment, injury, or holiday, the first and second XI teams had a mountain to climb even before taking the field on Saturday.
The most recent name to the injury list is that of David Montgomery, who fractured and dislocated his finger while playing against Downpatrick two weeks ago – another blow for the club and in particular Stephen Colgan’s Second XI.
Nevertheless, the second XI travelled to North Down on Saturday, and what they lacked in experience was made up by enthusiasm and a real hunger to win.
North Down won the toss and batted first. Opening the bowling for Ballymena were Anthony Frazer and Declan O’Boyle and both individuals bowled well and used the conditions to their advantage swinging the ball immensely during their opening spell.
O’Boyle, playing only his second game for the Second XI certainly deserved a wicket, but ended up with economic figures of 8 overs for only 23 runs.
Following a great spell by Frazer and O’Boyle, it was young Ethan Archer and Matthew Smith bowling a unique combination of “leg” and traditional “off” spin, that began to take wickets and turn the screw.
Ethan, bowled tempting leg breaks over an eight over spell that saw him take 3 wickets - a remarkable bowling display by someone who had been unwell in the run up to the game. Ethan was supported well by 15-year-old Matt Smith who continues to show great promise and maturity with ball in hand. Like O’Boyle, Matt deserved more wickets, but ended up with figures of 8 overs, 1 for 30 as Ballymena restricted the home team to 179 runs.
Not only did Ballymena get a solid start but they were handed a great start, provided by Phil Harshaw and Stephen Colgan.
Harshaw got off to a quick and positive start punishing anything wide from North Down’s senior bowler Kyle Lynas.
At the other end Colgan, who has looked in good form but whose top score so far had only been 32, certainly enjoyed the conditions at North Down.
The pair put on a partnership of 87, Harshaw ending up with a fine 44 that included seven 4’s and Colgan reached 50 for the first time this season, an innings that included nine 4’s.
When both Harshaw and Colgan departed, on form players Stuart Watt and Anthony Frazer batted well, holding the innings together for a good ten over period. Anthony scored a useful 30 and has really become a great asset to the second XI.
With the score at 161 and victory only around the corner, Ballymena started to lose wickets fast. However, in a nail biting finish young Ethan McPherson hit a blistering four in the 38th over to bring a well-deserved 2 wicket win.