Bangor made the short journey to east Belfast to play Cregagh CC at the Cregagh Memorial Recreation Ground. Bangor, who were clinical in the home fixture, were hoping for a repeat performance despite missing a few key individuals.
On arrival, the squad inspected a green wicket coupled with a sandy white outfield confirming the advice that it is a difficult place to score runs. On winning the toss for what could be the first time this season, skipper Burns decided to make first use of the aforementioned green-top and inserted Cregagh.
As normal, Khan and Nixon opened the attacked relishing the prospect of bowling on a surface that isn’t the road at Upritchard Park. With the score on 6 for 0 after 6.3 overs, Nixon was the first to strike, having the unusually sedate Simpson caught athletically by Jeremy Stewart at short fine-leg. Jeremy, who was returning to the First Xl after a number of years, was a very welcome addition to the team who lacked experience with no McLarnon or English on the team sheet. Next batsman Beattie strode to the wicket in time to watch R. Moore’s vigil come to an end as a Nixon Yorker ended a 55-minute 4.
Beattie, who had previously played for the east Belfast Superpower, CIYMS, woke up the Bangor fielders and crowd by hitting a monstrous straight 6 off a Nixon full toss. This shot was an anomaly in the Cregagh innings, as Khan dismissed Beattie LBW for 11, resulting in Cregagh returning to their bunker, seemingly intent to just grind out the 50 overs. Nixon and Khan were replaced by Ross Miller and George Prince respectively, aiming to continue to build on the early pressure.
Australian Moore, and young Adam McCormick, put on a measured 64 run partnership, made up mainly of well-judged singles coupled with the very odd boundary. Prince, Miller, and the re-invented Stewart (who was now bowling off-spin at a rate of an over every minute), kept the run rate to below 3, but with the difficult conditions Bangor wanted to ensure their chase was as straight forward as possible asking Nixon to return in an attempt to break the partnership.
Nixon struck with his 10th delivery of the spell, having McCormick LBW for 26. J Moore was then bowled with Nixon’s 15th ball, before Leon Moore was caught behind off the same bowler for 22. Thomas Boyd then brilliantly ran out Kareer, who looked in fine touch. Thomas is full of confidence after a brilliant 70 for the second Xl the week previous. Nixon struck for a 6th time to trap Ervine LBW for a duck fully justifying his return to the attack as the home-side sat at 117-8.
Foolishly for Bangor, the wicket-spree lead to a false dawn as they expected Cregagh to capitulate for less than 130. Rather bizarrely, Skelton, who one of Cregagh’s better batsmen, was hiding at number 9. He at least showed an element of intent, hitting to cow-corner with relative regularity for 30 before holing out off captain Burns. Burns wrapped up the innings trapping Grant LBW from the final delivery of the innings leaving Bangor requiring 164 to win.
After a tea of pizza, which absentee McLarnon would have marvelled in, the muscular frames of McCollum and Burns strode to the wicket intent to knock off the runs with consummate professionalism. At 31-0 off 9 overs, things were going to plan. Burns, who has already passed 650 runs for the year, was the first to fall for a typically belligerent 20. Nixon fell soon after for 1 leaving Bangor 36-2. Cregagh, who sniffed a chance, increased their volume in the field to a level even McCollum’s speaker couldn’t match. When Khan was rightly given ‘not-out’ after a caught behind appeal, the home-side nearly blew a fuse with the fielding side questioning the umpires; a tactic that has a success rate of exactly 0%.
When Khan hit Skelton to mid-on, Cregagh naïvely thought they had the game won; little did they know that in McCollum and McCusker, Bangor had two men who value their wicket more than a 5-bed detached in BT9. The pair batted with incredible skill and maturity, soaking up any pressure that Cregagh tried to apply. At the drinks interval, Bangor were 96-3 with Adam and Nicky swinging the game back in the Seasider’s favour. As is often the case after drinks, a break in rhythm accounted for McCollum as he missed a straight one from McCormick, departing for an excellent 46.
McCollum’s dismissal brought James Patterson to the crease. James was the perfect man for the situation; his solid technique and incredible ability to play each ball on its merit, was the perfect foil for McCusker who was starting to play more expansively through his beloved offside. When Adam was caught at mid-wicket for an invaluable 45, Bangor only needed 17 to win. Youngster Boyd hit two crisp boundaries before he mistimed a full toss from Hassard with only 6 runs required. Fittingly it was Patterson, who had battled for over an hour, who had the honour of hitting the winning runs as Bangor chalked up their 8th victory of the season.
With 32 points on the board, Bangor put some distance between neighbours Holywood in second, as well as matching the number of points they recorded in the entire 2017 season, demonstrating how far they have come over the winter without having to recruit, which is a great sign for the longevity of the club. Saturday’s win was particularly satisfying as they were missing destroyers from the previous week in Bates, Kwelu and McLarnon. The only negative was that wicketkeeper Griffoid suffered a broken finger; we wish him well in his recovery and hope it doesn’t hamper his ability to like Instagram posts.
Bangor play Derriaghy at Queensway in round 11 of the season in what will no doubt be a high scoring match. Once again, all support will be very much welcome.