It was a big weekend in the North West Premier League as joint League leaders Coleraine and Brigade both had matches on Saturday and Sunday.
Coleraine 1st XI’s trip to Magheramason on Saturday resulted in an unexpected defeat for the Bannsiders, as newly resurgent Bready continued on their quest to avoid relegation from the Premier league.
All of Coleraine’s top order struggled with the slow pitch and when the fifth wicket fell in the 27th over there were still only 63 runs on the board, brothers David and Gordon Cooke then came together and gave the Coleraine total some semblance of respectability with a 125 run partnership – with contributions of 70 (not out) for David and 53 for Gordon.
With a total of 188 to defend, Coleraine’s bowlers knew that they would have to be at their best if they were to have any hope of recording another win in the league.
The visitors’ early hopes were blown away by David Barr and David Rankin who took just nine overs to add 53 runs before Barr was trapped lbw by Gordon Cooke. However when overseas professional Romano Ramoo’s wicket fell to Roy Silva and that of David Rankin was claimed by Cooke, 53 without loss became 59 for 3 and Coleraine sensed that they could still achieve a result from the game.
However, although Mark Olphert did succumb to Cooke with the score on 88, Coleraine were unable to break the fifth wicket partnership of Robert Spence (68) and 15-year-old Andrew Austin (32) who added 101 runs to give Bready a well-deserved and much needed victory.
Coleraine’s disappointment at the result was tempered a little by the news on Saturday evening that Brigade had also been defeated, meaning that there was no change at the top of the league table.
As a result Sunday’s game against Donemana took on an even greater significance. Coleraine’s cause was not helped by the fact that it was another away fixture and the team were playing their second match in two days, whereas Donemana had the advantage of playing their only game of the weekend on their home turf.
Coleraine won the toss and opted to field first, but found newly appointed North West Warriors Captain Andy McBrine in superb form.
Coleraine’s bowlers seemed to have no answer to him as he struck a century in just 63 balls until he was stumped one ball later by David Cooke, off the bowling of Rishi Chopra.
Although the other opener, Tom Riddles had already fallen to Chopra, professional Kamran Sajid and wicket keeper Ricky Lee Dougherty were still at the crease and the pair added 79 before Sajid became the first of Mark Averill’s three wickets.
Scott Campbell claimed Dougherty’s wicket before captain Richard Kee and Gary McClintock added 50 runs for the sixth wicket.
Kee’s wicket fell to Gareth Burns but with Junior McBrine finishing on 20 not out, Donemana closed on a daunting 319 in their 50 overs.
In the initial overs of their innings, Coleraine’s opening batsmen found runs hard to come by – Sajid and William McBrine in particular bowled tightly with the result that after 10 overs Coleraine had only managed to score 33 runs.
To compound matters, a rain delay at this point resulted in six overs being lost, with Coleraine being set a revised target of 292 off 44 overs (using the Duckworth Lewis method).
When a second rain delay after 20 overs saw another six overs lost and a new target of 259 off 38 overs, Coleraine were well behind the required run rate and they knew that if they did not accelerate quickly the game would soon be out of their reach.
Niall McDonnell attempted to step up the rate but when he was adjudged lbw on 62 – leaving Coleraine needing 138 runs off 15 overs – the Donemana supporters believed that a win for their team was inevitable.
However, they had not reckoned on 19 year old Paul Douglas and Jarred Barnes taking the attack to the Donemana bowlers.
Over the next seven overs they added 77 runs – with Douglas reaching his 50 in just 35 balls before Barnes fell after making a superb 39 (including 2 fours and 3 sixes) in 24 balls.
This partnership brought the added advantage of silencing the usually voluble Donemana crowd and when David Cooke joined Douglas at the crease, the captain delivered the coup de grace, hitting three successive sixes off the bowling of Andy McBrine.
An excellent 61 from Douglas and 38 not out for Cooke saw Coleraine win by four wickets with 16 balls to spare.
This was a magnificent victory and it was made even sweeter by the news on Sunday evening that Bready had defeated Brigade in their league fixture – allowing Coleraine to move ahead at the top of the Long’s Supervalu Premier league table despite their defeat on Saturday.
Next weekend Coleraine 1st XI play Bready once more, this time at Sandel Lodge on Saturday and they will hope to maintain their top spot by winning this time in the first of their final four league games of the season.
A win next week would help them also to pile pressure on Brigade, who they will face in a decisive double header the following weekend.
This time last year, as Coleraine came into the final stretch of their league challenge, they were unable to maintain the momentum to take the title – this year they are focussed on holding their nerve and proving that they have the belief and determination as well as the talent required to win.