TOP OF THE LEAGUE

This weekend saw Coleraine 1st XI move to the top of the North West Senior One League table, when on Sunday they sealed victory at Beechgrove over last season’s champions, Brigade while Donemana lost to Bready at the Holm.

Batting first, Coleraine got off to the worst possible start when Captain Ian McGregor lost his wicket in the second over, without scoring, and Scott Campbell was then run out three overs later with only 10 runs on the board. With both openers gone, responsibility for rebuilding the innings passed to Craig Averill and Chinthaka Jayasinghe. The latter opened his account with a six and went on to add four more, along with 11 fours, on his way to a magnificent total of 104 runs off just 96 balls. Throughout he received excellent support from Averill, as together they constructed a vital 170 run partnership for the third wicket.

After Jayasinghe’s departure, Averill enjoyed a 68 run stand with David Cooke, who scored a quick-fire 43, so that when Averill was bowled for 79 in the 47th over and Cooke then lost his wicket three balls later, Coleraine had already amassed a total of 250 runs. Youngsters Calum McGregor and Paul Douglas added 17 runs in the last two overs to leave the visitors on 267 for 5 after 50 overs.

Brigade knew that they had to score quickly from the outset and opener Matty Moran signalled his intent by striking a six off the second ball of the innings. His contribution was short-lived however, as he was clean bowled by Stevie Dunn four balls later. When Jayasinghe broke the 60 run fourth wicket partnership of the experienced Iftikar Hussain and Johnny Thompson, it seemed that Coleraine had the upper hand, but Thompson was to prove extremely difficult to dislodge, and he had taken the Brigade total to 201 and his own tally to 126 before Stevie Dunn claimed his wicket courtesy of an excellent catch by wicket keeper David Cooke.

Brigade’s professional, Harry Chappell, was still at the crease and although he lost a series of partners – Mark Simpson to a fine catch by Paul Douglas off Dunn’s bowling and Dale Culbert to a run out by Craig Averill – he was still there when last man Nick Donnell joined him with the home side requiring 30 runs off 3 overs.

Going into the last over the equation was 11 runs required off 6 balls and as Jayasinghe ran in to bowl the last ball of the innings, Brigade still needed 4 runs to win. Chappell drilled the ball towards the boundary but a clean pick up and throw in by Gareth Burns saw Donnell run out attempting a third run which would have tied the match. It was a dramatic end to a thrilling match as Coleraine claimed victory by the narrowest of margins – one run.

Fine displays of batting from Chinthaka Jayasinghe, Craig Averill and David Cooke, of bowling from Stevie Dunn – taking four wickets for 40 runs in his 10 overs – together with some excellent work in the field, made this an impressive all round performance from Coleraine. The result was also a massive morale boost for the team after a disappointing result on Saturday when they suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of CIYMS in the Ulster Cup.

Sunday’s game was a great advertisement for North West cricket and it sets up a tantalising encounter next Saturday.