COLERAINE BACK ON TOP

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Sandel Lodge was the venue on Saturday for the fourth clash this season between Coleraine 1st XI and Eglinton.

On each previous occasion Coleraine had inflicted heavy defeats on the visitors and this time was to prove no exception.

Eglinton won the toss and elected to bat first, but they were soon in trouble as with only 14 runs on the board, Andy Christie was run out by a sharp piece of fielding from David Cooke and Christopher Peirce was bowled by Gareth Burns.

Wickets continued to fall regularly, with two more for Burns and one each for Roy Silva, Gordon Cooke and Mark Averill to leave Eglinton facing meltdown on 109 for 7 off 34 overs.

However, at this point veterans Stephen Smyth and Nigel Thompson came together and used their considerable experience to build an invaluable 86-run partnership, which was only broken when Rishi Chopra was introduced into the attack in the 49th over and promptly claimed Thompson’s wicket with his fourth ball.

Smyth, who had been dropped on 19, finished the innings on 66 not out and Eglinton’s 204 runs were augmented by 12 penalty runs awarded by the umpires because of Coleraine’s slow over rate.

With a target of 217, Coleraine’s opening batsmen decided that the best approach was to bat aggressively from the start.

All of Eglinton’s bowlers suffered as Niall McDonnell and Scott Campbell dispatched deliveries to all parts of the ground. McDonnell was the first to reach 50 runs in 61 balls and shortly afterwards he was joined by Campbell with a slightly better strike rate of 50 off 47 balls.

When Campbell was eventually dismissed for 82, only 15 more runs were required for victory and these were duly delivered by McDonnell and Rishi Chopra as the former finished on 117 not out.

After last weekend’s defeats, this was a confidence boosting performance which saw Coleraine return to the top of the North West Premier League.

Champions Donemana kept their distant hopes of a title challenge alive with a thrilling six-run win over Fox Lodge at The Holm. Andy McBrine hit 45 and Junior McBrine 30 in a total of 186 all out.

Jason Milligan then struck 10 fours and two six in a superb 62 as Fox Lodge cruised to 80 for one but wickets began to tumble including that of the opener to Kamran Sajjid.

Cameos from Ritchie Devine (21), Jonathan Heywood (20) and Andrew McGinnis (17) left the visitors needing seven from the final over with the last pair at the crease but they were all out for five balls to spare.

Andy McBrine took 3-32 while there were two wickets apiece for Sajid and Junior.

Bready blew a great start with the bat on their way to a seven-wicket defeat by resurgent Strabane. David Rankin (61) and David Barr (50) provided the perfect platform with a 114-run stand but both fell to Matthew Bentley (4-35) to spark an all-too familiar collapse.

Bready slumped to 183 for nine with Peter Connell taking three for 34.

Bready had hope as Strabane lost three early wickets but a 145-run stand for the fourth wicket between Mark (74 no) and Peter Gillespie (74 no) took the visitors home.

This weekend the First XI reach the midway point in their league season, with a home game against Glendermott on Saturday 20th.

Coleraine’s record against them has been 2-0 in Coleraine’s favour so far and having one more game played and only half of the points Coleraine have in the League, Glendermott would clearly be the underdogs in this contest.

Coleraine should not underestimate them however, as to do so can always lead to slip ups. As the league enters its second half and with several of the other teams finding form in recent weeks, every game and every point will be essential in the Premier League title race.

Coleraine Thirds are away next weekend to Creevedonnell Seconds on Saturday and the Fourths are at home at CAI against Bready Fifths.