After the previous week’s excitement at Pembroke, the IP20 headed to the North-West, as the second Festival of the season began at Bready Cricket Club. Hosts the North-West Warriors would be keen to build on their strong display in Dublin, while perennial champions Leinster Lightning would want to move out of the unfamiliar bottom half of the table they found themselves in.
North-West Warriors (160-6) beat Northern Knights (159-8) by 1 run.
Munster Reds (137-3 – 18 overs) beat Leinster Lightning (133-9) by 7 wickets.
The table topping hosts were put into bat first and made an uneven start. An aggressive first over which went for 15 runs was followed by 5 very tight overs only saw a combined 16 runs, as the Knights bowlers took control of the match.
That would all change when Porterfield fell on the first ball of the seventh over and William McClintock joined Shane Getkate at the crease. The pair took some time to settle before unleashing a blistering display of power hitting, putting on 84 runs together from just 51 balls. When McClintock was bowled by Georgeson on 54, the Warriors were in a far stronger position and a further strong cameo from captain McBrine saw them post a challenging 160.
The Knights would have been confident of chasing it down, boosted by the return of Paul Stirling from his stint at Middlesex. It was not to be a dream return however, as Stirling spooned up an easy catch from the bowling of Young to depart with just one run. Jeremy Lawlor and Mark Adair helped the Knights rebuild, before young wicketkeeper Neil Rock dazzled with a 30-ball 45, which included no fours, but several huge sixes.
The Knights seemed in trouble with just three overs to go, needing 47 to win, but Rock and Ross Adair changed the equation smashing 24 from the 18th over. A tighter final two overs from Hume and Getkate saw the Knights get agonisingly close, but the Warriors held on to claim another win.
The afternoon match was one to forget for the Leinster Lightning. Five of their top six batsmen were dismissed for single figures, with Simi Singh’s excellent 61 (38 balls) the lone act of defiance. A 24-run final wicket partnership between Little and O’Halloran gave the Lightning bowlers something to defend, but the Reds still went into the break the far happier of the two sides. The Munster bowlers were excellent, with Josh Manley and Michael Frost both taking two wickets at under four runs an over.
The Reds chase saw a few early hiccups, losing both Lynch and Commins for ducks, but stand in captain PJ Moor led from the front, with a delightful 95* from 58 balls. Singh and Moor’s 61 and 95* were the seventh and eighth half centuries of this year’s tournament, but the first to go past 54 runs, as the streak of batsmen failing to kick onto truly big scores was finally put to bed.
North-West Warriors (122-3 – 14.4 overs) beat Munster Reds (120-7) by 7 wickets
Leinster Lightning (167) beat Northern Knights (97) by 70 runs.
Day Two opened with the Warriors sending the Reds into bat. It would prove to be a good decision by McBrine, as the North-West bowlers proved to strong for the Munster batsmen. PJ Moor top scored with 37, while explosive cameos from Fionn Hand (23 off 19) and Greg Ford (19* off 10) added some respectability to the score, but the final target of 120 always looked far too low against this explosive Warriors line-up.
Craig Young and Graham Kennedy were the stars with the ball for the Warriors, picking up three wickets a piece, Young going for under six an over, while Kennedy went for less than five.
The Warriors chase was swift and brutal. William Porterfield continued to look like a man on a mission, finishing on an undefeated 61 from 43 balls, while Doheny, McGuire and McClintock all chipped in with numerous boundaries as the match was wrapped up with plenty of balls to spare.
It would prove to be the less one-sided of the day’s encounters however, as Leinster, fresh off an unprecedented three defeats in a row and sitting bottom of the table, took the Northern Knights to task.
Simi Singh once again led the scoring, picking up another half century. In contrast to their match against the Reds, the rest of the Lightning batting order supported Simi; Balbirnie and Tucker in particular (25 & 33) as Leinster posted a challenging 167.
The Knight’s hope of a successful chase was dealt an early blow when Stirling fell for a two-ball duck. McCollum and Rock (24 & 30) were the only batsmen to register scores of note, as the Lightning bowlers tore into their opposition with a vengeance. There were two wickets for each of Dockrell, Singh and Anders, but it was Josh Little who stole the show. The left-arm paceman finished his three overs taking three wickets and conceding just 8 runs, as the Knights were dismissed for a mere 97.
Leinster Lightning (127-8) beat North-West Warriors (111-9) by 16 runs.
Northern Knights (221-6) beat Munster Reds (198-5) by 23 runs.
The final day of the competition saw the importance of the third festival on the line. A win for the Warriors would see them take a near unassailable lead into the final round of matches, while a Lightning victory would blow the whole competition wide open.
Leinster batted first and struggled to get going, with opener Kevin O’Brien’s 16 ending up as the second highest score of the innings. It was captain George Dockrell who held the innings together, with an initially slow but steady knock that saw late acceleration as the skipper finished unbeaten on 55.
The Warriors bowlers were superb, Andy McBrine leading the way with his three for 19. Craig Young and Ryan McBeth claimed two scalps each, as Leinster were limited to just 127 leaving the North-West batsmen licking their lips at another easy chase.
The Lightning bowlers had other ideas, as the Warriors top three were all dismissed within the first three overs by Barry McCarthy. Getkate and McClintock put on another solid partnership to wrest control of the game back towards the hosts. The two big hitters had shared a 41-run stand when youngster Gavin Hoey was brought into the attack and changed the flow of play once more.
Hoey had only made his Interpro debut against the Knights the day before, but his lack of experience did not show, as he bowled a consistent, dangerous line that the Warriors batsmen could not handle. The legspinner finished with figures of 4-1-12-2 that rightfully earned him the man of the match award, as he took all momentum out of the Warriors chase, who in the end finished well short.
The final match of the weekend saw the Munster Red facing the unenviable task of bowling to a Paul Stirling annoyed by two low scores in two days. Stirling attacked from the off, depositing the ball into the cheering crowd again and again. It was only a wonder catch from Mike Frost that saw Stirling depart on 46 from just 23 balls, having hit five fours and four sixes.
If the Red’s thought they had seen off the worst of the power-hitting, they were sorely mistaken as Jeremy Lawlor, normally considered a careful longer form batsman, smashed a devastating 81 from 42 balls. The Knights finished on a herculean 221, and victory seemed all but guaranteed.
Munster’s injury woes continued, as in-form Murray Commins was forced to drop out last minute, while PJ Moor had to give up wicketkeeping duty for the second game in a row due to a finger injury.
The Red’s chase started poorly, losing both openers early. An 83-run partnership from the Ford brothers turned the innings around, and a string of good scores (Matt Ford 57, Fionn Hand 44*, Jack Carty 33) saw the Reds post an impressive 198, but it was not enough to catch the Knights, as Munster were never able to get their run rate quite high enough.
The Knights will go home cursing their failure to earn a bonus point win after their mammoth total, which leaves them with an uphill task when the teams meet in the final festival in September. With the traditional cancellation of this year’s EuroSlam, there are rumours of a fourth round of fixtures being added. After two exciting and unpredictable rounds, the prospect of more of the same is a welcome one.
Top run scorers: PJ Moor (Reds) 205, Simi Singh (Leinster) 197, William McClintock (Warriors) 161.
Top wicket takers: Ben White (Knights) 15, Craig Young (Warriors) 12, Josh Little (Leinster) 11.