Bangor played Lurgan for the third time this year, and having recorded two convincing wins previously, they went into the game as strong favourites. What Lurgan did have on their side though, is the motivation that a loss would seal their relegation to Section 2 for 2019.
Skipper Chris Burns called incorrectly as the coin fell on a patchy and difficult looking pitch; Lurgan were to set a total. The home side started well, as the Bangor opening pair of Bates and Khan were taken for singles with regularity. The experienced Nicky McCollum, who played his formative years at Lurgan, knew that pace off the ball was the best option advising Burns to bring on slow bowler Miller. The plan nearly paid dividends right away as the dangerous Johnston hit a difficult catch to mid-off, but unfortunately it wasn’t taken.
With Miller applying the pressure, Khan struck first having the Grieve caught at cover by McCollum, leaving Lurgan 29 for 1. This soon became 31 for 2 as the prolific Rohit Karanjkar replicated Grieve’s dismissal, falling for a duck. Bangor were justifiably buoyant as Rohit had already notched up a fifty and a hundred against the Seasiders at Upritchard Park.
Messrs Chambers and Johnston were at the crease and are thought of as being Lurgan’s last hope in compiling a large total once Karanjkar has departed. The innings seemed to be heading that way before an inspired piece of fielding. Johnston hit a Khan delivery between long off and cover and called Chambers back for two. Khan, alert and as competitive as ever, chased down the ball and sent a thunderbolt to middle stump from 40 yards away to leave the classy Chambers short by a quarter of a pitch. Khan’s celebration that followed was reminiscent of Monty Panesar, before he turned himself into an ice-skating Masterchef.
With the scoreboard reading 60-3, Bangor knew that a few quick wickets and Lurgan’s tail would be walking to the crease. When Stewart, who had replaced Khan, found Harrison’s edge to first slip, the visitors thought that this was becoming closer only for a unique piece of umpiring. The square leg official ruled that youngster Matty Quinn, who had kept with exceptional skill, had his gloves in front of the stumps during the delivery that took the edge. A no ball was given. To compound Stewart’s bad luck, Ollie McCollum, who replaced Johnston after Patterson bowled him with a beautiful off-spinner through the gate for 67, was dropped at first slip balls later; it wasn’t a no ball as Nixon had to apologise for his clumsiness.
Lurgan’s tail wagged, despite some accurate bowling from Patterson, Stewart, Prince, Bates and Khan, with batsmen number 5 to 9 all recording scores of over 20. A final noteworthy moment was when Prince nonchalantly ran out the destructive Gibson with an underarm lob having only one stump to aim at; a brilliant and potentially crucial piece of fielding.
When the 300th legitimate delivery had been bowled, Bangor were set 209 to record their 12th league win of the year. Bangor were quietly confident of doing so, despite missing a few key batsmen in McCusker and McLarnon.
Burns, who had already registered 2 centuries against the opposition this year, and McCollum walked to the wicket knowing a good start would deflate the home side in their quest for survival. Lurgan, having watched how difficult the slower bowling was to score off, opened with spinner Bingham, and speedster Gibson. McCollum was the first to fall smashing a flat catch to deep square off the latter for 8. True to form, Burns was dismissing what felt like every ball to the rope and despite a sluggish outfield, 9 of his first 11 scoring shots were boundaries. Nixon too was timing the ball well against the seamers as the pair put on 77 in under 11 overs before Burns fell for 45, and soon after, Nixon for 33.
With the score on 91 for 3, Lurgan started to believe. After Khan hit a huge 6, he too was dismissed, leaving Bangor’s rejigged middle order with a huge job to do. Kwelu looked in good nick for his 11, before he became Stafford’s third of five victims. Patterson looked comfortable before he got an unplayable delivery summing up the pitch well as batsmen came off declaring that they never felt ‘in’ on it. Miller, who “was now an allrounder” (his words, not mine) and Bates were at the crease requiring a further 90 runs from a lot of overs. With Lurgan going all in, bowling their three spinners out in tandem, Bangor knew that if they managed to see them out it would get a lot easier against the quicks.
The pair, more renowned for their bowling prowess (and missing a game due to Zorb Football in the case of Bates), sensibly took the score to 185 before Miller was bowled by McCollum for a very mature 29. With another 24 needed, and only 4 overs remaining, equations were being calculated remotely by regular scorer Patrick Dixon, who was also sending motivational advice via the Club’s members-only Facebook page. Bates, who has a very sound technique, began to unveil his repertoire of shots, hitting a huge maximum over long-on, before another over long-off, despite Chambers’ incredible effort to collect the ball. With 12 needed from as many balls, Prince sensibly gave Bates the strike as 8 were collected from the penultimate over. After an exchange of singles, Bates launched another majestic 6 over long-off to seal victory for the travelling team.
Bangor were happy with the win, but ultimately it was difficult for to watch the disconsolate Lurgan team who were officially relegated; we wish them well next season.
The team would like to thank a number of people who have helped contribute to such a successful season on and off the pitch. To Stephen Burns (Ground’s Convenor, Team Manager, Head Selector, Head chef, and Relief Scorer, inter alia), a huge thanks for the hours you spend giving the players such a fantastic ground, as well as supporting the team with selection and at matches (when you aren’t in Italy, France, Marbella, Donegal etc.); the club wouldn’t function without you. To Patrick Dixon, for giving up your Saturdays to sit in a musty shed at various locations that is beyond comprehension; the team is really grateful that you have returned to the role and hope you can next year as you add so much, just please wear sun cream! To Taimur Khan, Allen Cox, Chris Yeates, Neil Bates, Andy Hare and your team of volunteers who coach the future of Bangor CC, we thank for your unrivalled commitment; as a club whose plan is to produce senior cricketers through their own youth setup, your work is crucial. To Chairman Chris Escott as well as his Committee and donors, whom all put in so many hours behind the scenes to make playing that much easier, we appreciate all that you do. Finally, to Joe Mac, team photographer, you have been a great addition to the club over the last two seasons. It is great to see so many action pictures online so soon after the match.
The club dinner is being held on Friday 12th October at Upritchard Park; we hope to see as many there to toast what has been a great season for the club. To 2019!