Bangor 1st Xl made their first trip to Laurelvale Cricket Club since 2013 without a number of key individuals. Laurelvale, situated 3 miles from Portadown and boasting a mere 1,243 people, would ordinarily be underdogs against a rampant Bangor CC, aiming to record their tenth league victory of the season. That being said, the Seasiders were without stalwarts McCollum, who was now the oldest man to visit the Ibiza strip, McLarnon, who was away with business in Marbella, Captain Burns, who was in Barcelona for a Nike Athlete photoshoot, and Bates, who was continuing to work Saturdays for a corporation that will go unnamed. With these factors considered, the eleven Bangorians selected knew this was going to be no walk in the park.
On arrival to the ground, the players inspected a spongey-looking pitch, much akin to a Ballymacormick wicket of circa 2002. Unfortunately, only stand in skipper Nixon had any experience in playing on this challenging Bangor Grammar grass “wicket”, as a youthful team gathered around for various warm up exercises led by Adam McCusker. Rather tellingly, Will Simpson missed the initial drills as he was on Facetime to his girlfriend despite only leaving her presence a matter of hours ago. Patrick Dixon shook his head in disbelief.
Nixon called correctly and was delighted to bowl first as the side welcomed the very reliable pair of Stewart and Prince back into the bowling line up. The innings started well as Nixon had Thornberry caught behind by deputy wicketkeeper McCusker, leaving Laurelvale 8 for 1. This soon became 9 for 2 as Nixon bowled the dogged Weir for 7.
The following 15 overs belonged to Bangor as Laurelvale attempted to consolidate their innings. Ross Miller replaced Khan at the Road End and teamed up with the latter for his only wicket of the day, as Khan took a fantastic one-handed catch at first slip to end the pedestrian 25 run partnership. Miller, as he so often does, hit a nagging length, conceding a miserly 13 runs in his 10 overs, highlighting how big a loss he will be when he goes back to his native Germany for the next three fixtures.
Bangor legend Jeremy Stewart replaced Miller, and was on the money from ball one, extracting vicious turn on the spicy wicket. Stewart picked up the first of his three wickets, removing the dangerous Burns for 15, before trapping the ultra-aggressive Khan leg-before.
After a brief rain shower, the umpires decided to take an early lunch after 36 overs with the home-side on 84 for 5. As per Cregagh earlier in the season, the tea included pizza which was welcomed by everyone who was coming in from the drizzle and cold breeze. Luckily, the precipitation subsided after lunch, allowing Bangor a chance to remove the remaining batsmen in a game reduced by a nominal one over.
Within a matter of minutes, Prince had Henry caught behind with a beautiful delivery that pitched on off stump and left the right-hander. After a few more tidy overs, Prince was replaced by Nixon who dismissed the dangerman Sinton with a carbon copy of the Prince ball, for a very well-played 36. Sinton was head and shoulders above his team mates, playing some lovely shots down the ground.
Stewart, and the very tidy Kwelu, wrapped up the innings, as Laurelvale trudged off with the unlucky score of 111. Asides from Khan’s brilliant slip catch, the highlight of the fielding innings was youngster Ben Escott’s diving catch at point demonstrating that he is a three-dimensional cricketer of the future. On reflection, this was perhaps Bangor’s most complete fielding innings, as all men backed up the bowlers, in particular, Zach Kerr who makes it all look very easy. At the turnaround, resident stats-man Ross Miller informed us that Khan had only gone for 12 off his 9 overs, and that in total 9 maidens had been bowled, accounting for 19.56% (always two decimal places) of the first innings. He also stated that a first innings score of 111 was 35.66’ below the average at this ground since the turn of the century. With this information, Bangor were content with the first half the day.
With regular openers away, Taj Kwelu and Jaymes Griffith were entrusted with batting against the new ball. Faced with a relatively meagre target both started well, taking their time to get used to the difficult pitch. The first wicket fell in the 5th over, as Kwelu got a ball that jagged back lavishly to trap him in-front against the impressive left-arm over of Burns. Nixon ambled to the crease knowing that there was plenty of time left to chase the remaining 106 runs; he drove his third ball in the air to cover, but was luckily dropped by Sinton. Griffith was then dropped next over by the same fielder to increase the tension at the now gloomy ground.
Soon after, Burns had Jaymes caught behind leaving Bangor with over 100 runs still to get. When Khan arrived at the wicket he reiterated that time was on our side and that winning was all that mattered. This rally cry resonated with Nixon who began to play more circumspectly.
The pair were able to see out both openers Burns and Henry, picking up the odd boundary from anything pitched too short. Once these bowlers had finished, Khan and Nixon were able to make hay against the change attack, who lacked the discipline required on a soft surface. With a flurry of boundaries against Haire, Nixon passed 50. Khan, now sensing victory and a heavy downpour was near, began smashing the bowling around the quaint ground. With 3 runs to win, Nixon sealed victory with a reverse sweep for 4 to cement Bangor’s treble over Laurelvale for the year, as well as their tenth league success.
The victory cements their position in second place in the Robinson’s Section 1, with a 4-point gap over neighbours Holywood. With away fixtures against Derriaghy (Friday, Match 2) and Woodvale this coming weekend, Bangor know that anything apart from 8 points could result in their league campaign being all but over if first-placed Lisburn continue on their winning way. We would like to thank Patrick Dixon for scoring an immaculate book, as well as the group of supporters who made the journey to County Armagh to watch a tense encounter.