Bangor CC played Downpatrick for the third time this year, hoping to register their first win against the south Down outfit. The fixture was increasingly important as both teams were sitting second on 32 points prior to the start at a slightly damp, but picturesque Upritchard Park.
Downpatrick skipper, Ross Boultwood, called incorrectly with Chris Burns deciding to insert the away side on a wicket that was a little soft and green due to the recent wet weather. Downpatrick got off to a attacking start as Boultwood and Mullan put on 40 for the first wicket off only 8 overs. Boultwood was playing a shot a ball, taking a particular liking to Nixon bowling up the hill. Fortunately for Bangor, Boultwood played one shot too many as he chipped a catch to Khan off the very impressive Taj Kwelu.
Kwelu, and off-spinning Burns, bowled fantastically well clawing back control for the home team. Kwelu was hitting a very good length relentlessly, whereas Burns was giving the ball a rip on a wicket that was taking spin, albeit slowly. When Mullan was run out for 14 by ‘undoubtedly the best arm in the NCU’ in Mark English, Bangor knew the next period was a crucial one as record holder Smyth strode to the wicket.
Smyth, who had smashed 249* in the opening fixture at the same venue last season, was deceived by a flighted ball from Burns which crept under the bat to knock the bails off. The jubilation from all fielders showed that this was indeed the turning point of the game. From this moment on, Downpatrick seemed to give up hope of a defendable score. This was compounded further as Kwelu removed Australian professional Acocks with a rising delivery routinely caught behind by seasoned ‘keeper McLarnon.
When Graham holed out to long-on off Miller for an unusual 80-ball 18, no other visiting batsman reached double figures as Downpatrick were all out for a timid 144 off 45 overs. Asides from an early burst from Boultwood, the Bangor bowlers were on top, with economical and intelligent bowling from Khan, Burns, Kwelu and Miller.
With a very healthy crowd from the Corporate Lunch watching, openers Burns and McCollum walked to the wicket with the objective of surpassing the total whatever way possible; the four points were all that mattered.
Against the norm, Burns was being outscored by Nicky McCollum who was finding the middle of the bat with as much regularity as his visits to airport lounges. With the score on 22, Burns was the first to go, perhaps feeling the pressure from the large crowd to entertain in the way he normally does. Nixon joined McCollum to face Boultwood and Graham who were extracting lavish movement off the seam.
Both men were patient in their approach, content on waiting for the bad balls. Nicky continued to strike the ball beautifully, whilst his partner struggled with cramp, succumbing to unorthodox spinner Magowan for 25. McCollum followed suit soon after for a brilliant 37, holing out to mid-on in the same fashion as Nixon.
This left Khan and McCusker at the wicket. Both men read the script perfectly as they steadied the ship much to the delight of the very lively crowd. After some consolidation, both batsmen had a purple patch with the rope being found with increasing frequency. When both were dismissed, Bangor only required 15 runs to record their 9th league win of the season.
Mark English, making a rare appearance for Bangor, knocked off the winning runs alongside youngster Boyd. Mark’s presence galvanises the side, adding to his ‘electric fielding, bullet-like arm, and aesthetic batting’. We also thank Mark for providing quotes for this match report.
After the match’s conclusion, it was time for the annual ‘Sponsor’s Bowl Out’. With unprecedented numbers, the winner was undoubtedly going to be a gun bowler who can deliver under immense pressure. After numerous rounds, hundreds of deliveries and the odd light refreshment, the final was between young gun Chris Pyper, and club legend and 1st Xl scorer, Patrick Dixon. Chris, who had featured a number of times for the senior team as a fast bowler was perhaps favourite, but you underestimate Dixon at your peril. When Chris missed, Patrick uprooted the middle stump, sending Upritchard Park in to a sense of delirium not witnessed since the much celebrated 2004 season. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all who attended the lunch, and to all of our generous sponsors and supporters.