While the opening day of the inaugural World Test Championship final was busy being washed out, across the Irish Sea in Pembroke Cricket Club, the first Ireland IP20 Festival of the year got underway in glorious sunshine.
Hosts Leinster Lightning would be looking to continue their dominance, having already secured the IP50 trophy for yet another year, but the weekend was set to prove the unpredictability of the shortest format.
Leinster Lightning (149-3 – 15.1 overs) beat Munster Reds (148-7) by 7 wickets.
North-West Warriors (138-3 – 11.1 overs) beat Northern Knights (135-9) by 7 wickets
The news of the day was Kevin O’Brien announcing his retirement from ODIs, as his Leinster team started with a comfortable win over the Reds. Munster’s top order built a strong foundation, with the first four batsman all making good contributions – Murray Commins was again the pick of them, with an excellent 34-ball half century.
The Lightning bowlers were then able to strangle the run rate with a series of quick wickets. No batsman from 5 to 9 could make over 6 runs, and Munster finished on a 148-7 that looked too low for this pitch.
A quick fire 44 (23 balls) and 48* (30 balls) by Simi Singh and George Dockrell respectively led the charge for the Lightning, as they chased down the total with plenty of balls to spare.
The second game of the day was one the Northern Knights will be keen to forget. With the exception of James McCollum, who made an excellent 48, none of the batsmen ever managed to get going. The Paul Stirling-shaped hole in the team was evident, as the Knights struggled their way to 138 runs.
The Warriors response was brutally efficient, with Stephen Doheny blasting his way to 54 from just 27 balls, and Shane Getkate taking 13 balls to reach his 36. The chase took a mere 11 overs and one ball, as the Warriors ended the day with a bonus point win, and the Knights were left feeling shell-shocked.
Northern Knights (174-7) beat Leinster Lightning (152-8) by 22 runs.
Munster Reds (147-7 – 17.1 overs) beat North-West Warriors (146-9) by 6 wickets
After their disappointing batting in the first game, the Knights took to the crease on a mission. The 174 they set was a far more challenging total and was a great team effort. Luke Georgeson and Ruhan Pretorius top scored on 31 each, while every batsman bar Harry Tector chipped in with at least 15 runs at a strike rate of over 120.
Josh Little was the pick of the Leinster bowlers, with a strong 3-26, while George Dockrell also showed great control to restrict the opposition runs.
In response only Andy Balbirnie could put up a decent score for the Leinster top order, reaching 42 before the hosts found themselves on 73-6. The Lightning tail wagged strongly, with Tim Tector (27), Barry McCarthy (24*) and Josh Little (27*) all delivering strong cameos with the bat, but it was not enough to get their team over the line.
It was the Munster bowlers who were the stars of the show in the afternoon match. Josh Manley (3-34) and Fionn Hand (2-26) led the attack, as the Warriors top order collapsed to 41-5. It was up to the lower order to salvage the innings, and under the leadership of captain Andy McBrine (41), the North-West managed to reach 146-9. Jared Wilson’s 28 from 12 balls coming in at nine was another highlight.
The Reds chase began with yet another strong showing from Murray Commins, who added 44 runs to his half century from yesterday. The result of the match hung in the balance until an explosive partnership from Matt and Greg Ford, who both sent the ball sailing into the crowd again and again. It took just 24 balls for them to score the 42 runs needed to win, and the Reds picked up their first victory of the year in style.
Saturday’s results meant that every team in the competition had one win and one loss under their belts, with just bonus points separating them on the table. With plenty of matches left this season, the IP20 was already shaping up to be delightfully competitive.
North-West Warriors (183-9 – 19.5 overs) beat Leinster Lightning (182-7) by 1 wicket.
Northern Knights (139-5 – 18.3 overs) beat Munster Reds (137-9) by 5 wickets
Despite how close all four teams were on the league table going into the final day, each match so far had been a fairly comfortable victory for the winning team. What the festival had lacked so far was a nail-biting finish, and the Warriors and Lightning duly delivered.
Leinster were put in to bat first and posted an impressive total, with Lorcan Tucker (51 from 27 balls) and George Dockrell (44 from 32) topping the scoring charts. Craig Young was the standout bowler for the Warriors, claiming three wickets, but his role in the game was far from over.
The Warriors began their reply in fine form, led by William Porterfield’s excellent 52, which came off just 23 balls. Shane Getkate was in aggressive form yet again adding 37 runs from 19 balls, to leave the visitors well ahead of the required run rate.
The Lightning fought back hard, to turn the game back in their favour, claiming five wickets for just 22 runs. As the game moved into the final three overs, the Warriors tail needed 32 runs. The momentum shifted back and forth several times before Hume was dismissed, leaving the Warriors 10 and 11 at the crease, needing 2 runs from 2 balls. Young smashed the penultimate ball for a double to scramble home for a dramatic victory, to end on an excellent 17* from 9 balls.
The defeat meant that Leinster experienced back-to-back defeats for the first time ever in Interpro history.
Munster Reds had to go into the final match of the festival without a single Irish International in their line-up, as Tyrone Kane joined Curtis Campher and Gareth Delany on the sidelines. The lone player with international experience in their side, Zimbabwean wicketkeeper PJ Moor, took over the captaincy duties, and led the batting attack with a brisk 49 from 24 balls. However, the next highest score was number 10 Josh Manley’s 23 not out, as Reds struggled to 137.
The reason for this struggle was Ben White. The 22-year-old leg-spinner was in top form, tearing through the Reds batsmen to finish on a magnificent 5-13, bringing his total wickets for the festival to 10. White has been included in recent Ireland and Wolves squads, but has yet to earn a full senior cap. With Ireland playing 14 matches in the next two months, it seems Ben White has made his international debut a near certainty.
Luke Georgeson continued his outstanding form by bringing up his first IP20 half century to break the back of the Knights run chase, before Adair and Rock smashed the Northerners over the line with 9 balls to spare. As a result, the Knights finished the weekend in second place, and all four teams will have a lot to think about before they do it all again at Bready next weekend.
Top run scorers: Murray Commins (Reds) 101, George Dockrell (Leinster) 99, Luke Georgeson (Knights) 92.
Top wicket takers: Ben White (Knights) 10, Josh Little (Leinster), Craig Young (Warriors) and David O’Halloran (Leinster) 6 each.
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