COLERAINE Seconds completed a fine weekend with wins over Strabane and Ballyspallen.
On Saturday they completed their sixth consecutive win in a compelling encounter against Strabane II, winning by three wickets in the end.
Bowling first on a fairly soft pitch which offered significant help to the seamers.
Coleraine gained a stranglehold of the game early on.
Rory Knox picked up Michael Gillespie for one while Kyle Martin was at his miserly best, bowling his 10 overs off the reel for 11 runs.
This included the wicket of Sharma who edged a beautiful away swinger to ‘keeper Matthew Douglas as Coleraine started well.
Despite scoring at around two an over for much of the innings, Strabane showed tenacity in absorbing huge amounts of pressure.
Strabane’s very own Kyle Martin (27) and Derek Lynch (22) occupied the crease for much of the innings allowing Ciaran Patton (34 n.o.) and Kyle Gallagher (40) to capitalise towards the end.
Indiscipline in the field and an extras column of 30 were significant contributors in allowing Strabane to reach 159-7 from their 50 over allotment.
Coleraine’s Matthew Smyth was a bright light however in claiming 3-26 with his bustling medium pacers.
Matthew Douglas and Rory Knox began brightly, Knox in particular looking well set on 20 before failing to make contact with a late in-ducker which crashed into leg stump.
Douglas was smartly caught at first slip and when skipper, Peter Wallace crashed an off-drive gratefully to mid off Coleraine were perilously placed on 52-3. In Steven Harper, Coleraine had the man capable of shouldering the burden, waiting patiently for scoring opportunities and numbing the enthusiasm of the visitors.
Matthew Smyth (14) and Jacques Muller (10) kept Coleraine ticking along before the decisive partnership of the day.
Requiring 36 with just three wickets intact, Curtis Cooke combined his aggressive intent with steely determination during an unbeaten 24.
Steven Harper too finished unbeaten with 39, providing further indication of Coleraine’s growing maturity in the middle order.
Coleraine II maintained winning ways on Sunday in another turgid affair at Sandel Lodge against Ballyspallen.
Bowling first, Rory Knox and Kyle Martin applied early pressure for Coleraine, with Knox picking up Hill-Nicholl and Young without scoring.
With extravagant seam movement and variable bounce on offer, scoring came at a painfully slow pace.
Andrew Douglas however enticed Craig (7) and Kennedy (9) into playing the big shots as both failed to push on despite occupying the crease for long periods.
Right enough, from 26-5 at the halfway stage Creighton Wilson (32) and Bernard Blair (23) put on 57 together as Ballyspallen refused to subside.
Runs were still tough to come by, with Varun Chopra’s introduction spelling trouble for the visitors.
The young leg-spinner showed tremendous control to claim 3-17 while Knox (4-19) returned to mop up the tail as Ballyspallen batted just shy of 48 overs for 114.
In reply Rory Knox and Matthew Douglas found the pitch equally as difficult to score.
Neither batsman was willing to give in however, given how difficult such scores have proven to be for the Bannsider’s this season.
The duo put on 73 before Knox was caught behind for 33 in the 26th over. Steven Harper attempted to force the pace but perished for 12 as Douglas and Jacques-Dessaix Muller took the side home.
Team Manager Nigel Barr was hugely encouraged by Matthew Douglas, who despite a mixed day behind the stumps scored 46 to ensure there were no hiccups for Peter Wallace’s side.
“I’m a long distance from Italy but very much at home,” he said.
“Similarly, our men struggled with the playing surface but found a way to grind out two points. That’s extremely encouraging.”
Barr was keen to emphasise the difficulties the young side face every week, particularly with Wilson ‘too-many-years’ Torrens unavailable through injury.
“It’s not easy at the top,” he said.
“In essence, every game is a cup final because everybody wants to beat us. Right enough, it is a challenge we relish.”
With Newbuildings defeating Donemana, it’s crunch time in Qualifying 1 with Coleraine squaring off against North Fermanagh and Newbuildings next weekend.