It was another successful weekend for Coleraine Firsts as they progressed in the T20 Cup and maintained their lead at the top of the league.
Coleraine travelled to Ardmore on Friday evening for the final game in the group stages of the North West T20 Cup, before the teams in the groups are put into the draw for the Faughan Valley Fleming-Agri Cup or the Eric Cooke Memorial Plate.
With Coleraine and Ardmore both already on 8 points apiece, they were both guaranteed places in the Cup competition quarter-finals, so the only question to be settled was who would have a home game in the next round.
Coleraine had three additional teenagers, Scott Torren, Matthew Hutchinson and Ben Johnston in the team on Friday.
Opening bowlers, Graeme McCarter, who will miss most of July at Coleraine due to his inclusion in the Ireland T20 squad, Jarred Barnes, who was resting an injury and Matty Smyth were not available for selection.
Winning the toss, Ardmore decided to bat first, with Coleraine taking their first wicket almost immediately with a superb piece of fielding by captain Scott Campbell, running out Peter Harrigan with the score on 1 for 1 in the first over.
Rishi Chopra then had the other opener stumped by keeper, Matthew Douglas at the end of the second over and bowled Ryan Brolly in the fourth.
At 30 for 3 in 3.2 overs, the spectators knew that an exciting game was in progress.
For Coleraine, it was imperative to keep taking wickets, to prevent the batsmen settling and scoring, but unfortunately for them, the Ardmore Professional, Foster Murtizwa (77) joined Andrew Riddles (51) formed a fast scoring partnership taking Ardmore to 100 in 12 overs, when Riddles was stumped by Douglas off the bowling of captain Scott Campbell (2 for 26).
Murtizwa remained until the final over, when he was run out by Ben Johnston with 2 balls to go and Ardmore finished on 163 for 6.
In reply, Coleraine suffered their own early losses, stumbling to 44 for 4 in just 6.1 overs, until Tim Chopra and Gordon Cooke steadied things with a 39 run stand.
Chopra went on to make 55 not out, but with contributions of 14 from Ben Johnston and 7 not out from Matthew Hutchinson, Coleraine fell just 7 runs short.
Although they failed to top the group, Coleraine are still in the Cup competition as it goes into the knock out stages.
The next day, Coleraine were playing again in the Premier League, to try to maintain their lead and their unbeaten record.
Winning the toss the visitors at Sandel Lodge, Strabane, chose to bowl first.
The start was briefly delayed with a light shower just before the game, but with only one more stoppage, without losing any overs, the Coleraine team batted their full 50 overs for 277 runs losing only 4 wickets.
The opening pair, of Niall McDonnell and Scott Campbell, put on 56 for the first wicket in just 11.2 overs before McDonnell was adjudged lbw.
The largely untroubled nature of the Coleraine innings can be seen from the fact that every partnership reached over 50 runs, although Campbell (49) and Tim Chopra (48) were each denied their own half centuries.
Coleraine Professional Kyllin Vardhan reached his own 50 off 49 balls before accelerating with 11 fours and 1 six in his 63 balls, 88 not out.
With 27 for Rishi Chopra, none of the Coleraine batsmen had found any issues on this batting track, reaching a total of 277 in their 50 overs, but unfortunately for Strabane, their batsmen struggled from the start, with wickets shared amongst the Coleraine bowlers, three each for teenagers, Rishi Chopra and Matty Smyth.
Only three of the visitors reached double figures, as their score crawled along at around three runs an over, whilst the wickets fell and everyone could see where this was going.
While Coleraine had already passed 120 by the 28th over, Strabane only got to 92 and were all out, handing Coleraine a straightforward win by 185 runs.
That result coupled bt another defeat for Donemana made it a good weekend for the Bannsiders in the race for the North West Premier League title.
Richard Kee’s men lost for the second Sunday in succession, struggling Ardmore the surprise winners at The Bleachgreen last night in a result that leaves Donemana with a mountain to climb in the North West Premiership title race.
Unbeaten until last Sunday’s defeat by the leaders Coleraine, they now need other results to go for them if they are to get back into the title race.
Only a last-wicket partnership of 69 between Jordan McGonigle and William McBrine gave the scoreline a respectable look as Donemana slumped to 133 for nine chasing a Duckworth-Lewis target of 250 in 34 overs.
McGonigle was the last man out for 40 as Donemana were dismissed for 202 but they were always up against it after losing their first four wickets to Conor Brolly with just 48 runs on the board.
There was drama in the Ardmore innings as Forster Mutizwa (45 no) smashed 26 from the final over to take the home side to 228 for three, a total increased by 21 under Duckworth-Lewis.
Andrew Riddles, the former Donemana all-rounder, produced his best performance of the season, dismissed just four runs short of a century. Paul McDowell also added 72 as Ardmore followed up Saturday’s victory over Bready with a superb all-round display. After starting the weekend with just one victory, they suddenly have three to their name and are on the brink of safety.
Meanwhile, on Friday 3 July Coleraine entertained the u15 Cricket Masters from Pune in India who are in Northern Ireland on a two week trip playing every day against local teams from their Lurgan base.
In glorious conditions the visitors batted first making 184 for 7off their allocated 30 overs. There was some wonderful stroke play notably from captaincy Stave who scored 62 not out.
In reply Coleraine started well with Varun Chopra and Ben Johnson scoring freely. Coleraine passed Pune’s total with three balls to spare as Marcus Poskitt and Paddy Carson saw the home team to victory in a great contest.The teams then enjoyed a meal to complete a memorable day.
Next weekend the 1st XI will host Brigade at Sandel Lodge on Saturday, with the game starting at 12 noon.
Brigade are just 2 points behind, so this will be a crucial match, bringing the first half of the league season to an end, with either Coleraine cementing their lead, or Brigade drawing level, before the second half begins.
This week Coleraine will also be the venue for 2 of the Under17 Interprovincial matches on Thursday and Friday, with the 50 over games due to start each day at 11am.
On Saturday 11th July the 2nd XI will be away to play Donemana 2nds and the 3rd XI are at home at CAI’s playing fields against Bready 4ths.
The result unquestionably takes the edge off Donemana’s win over Eglinton on Saturday in a dress rehearsal for the Senior Cup final.