On Saturday Coleraine 1st XI – holders of the Ulster Cup – travelled to Comber to play North Down in the First Round of this year’s competition.
Having won the toss, North Down opted to bat and in spite of an excellent opening spell from Jarred Barnes, when he conceded just 11 runs in five overs, their opening batsmen, Nick Larkin and Johnny Terrett were soon into their stride, posting 74 for the first wicket before Terrett was caught on the boundary by Kyllin Vardhan off the bowling of Scott Campbell.
Two overs later Larkin (43) was run out and when Gordon Cooke bowled Andrew Sutherland with the second ball of the first over and then dismissed Alistair Shields four balls later – courtesy of a fine diving catch by Paul Douglas – the captain must have believed that Coleraine could restrict their opponents to a manageable total.
Unfortunately, North Down captain Ryan Haire was still at the crease and although Cooke claimed two more wickets and Vardhan one, both bowlers’ figures suffered at Haire’s hands with Vardhan conceding 58 runs in his 8 overs and Cooke 46 in his seven. Haire finished 75 not out as North Down posted a competitive total of 205 for 7 off 40 overs.
Scott Campbell and Paul Douglas opened the batting for Coleraine and with Douglas (23) finding the ball easier to put away, they added 40 for the first wicket. However, although Campbell went on to top score with 38, none of the other Coleraine batsmen were able to capitalise on the start which Campbell and Douglas had given them, with the only other notable score being David Cooke’s 22 not out. North Down emerged as clear winners by 65 runs as Coleraine were bowled out for 140.
The following day it was back to League action in the North West Premier League as Coleraine entertained Fox Lodge at Sandel Lodge.
With Fox Lodge batting first, Jarred Barnes struck early to remove the visitors’ overseas professional Tabish Khan in the third over. Brian Allen and Luke Hayes dug in to grind out 40 for the second wicket until Hayes was caught by David Cooke off the bowling of Kyllin Vardhan.
The turning point in the game however was an excellent catch by Scott Campbell off his own bowling to dismiss North West Warriors opening batsman Jason Milligan. This was Campbell’s second wicket and over his next three overs he added four more to finish with the outstanding figures of 6 wickets for 29 runs off his 10 overs. With Jarred Barnes returning to claim a second wicket, 14 year old Varun Chopra wrapped up the innings, taking the final wicket in the 43rd over to leave Fox Lodge all out for 131.
In response Coleraine lost Niall McDonnell (7) early on, but Scott Campbell put his side in a winning position with 39 runs off 39 balls and Kyllin Vardhan (61 not out) and David Cooke (12 not out) saw Coleraine safely home to an impressive 8 wicket win with over 25 overs to spare.
With Campbell in particular, finding form with both ball and bat over this weekend, Coleraine will hope that their other batsmen too overcome any dip in their form in time for next week’s games.
Next Saturday the 1st XI are away to Strabane, who have been seen by many as making a serious challenge this year in the League title race. On Sunday Coleraine face top Dublin side, YMCA, in RSA Irish Senior Cup second round. YMCA were last year’s Leinster Senior Cup winners and were beaten semi-finalists in the Irish Cup, by eventual winners Clontarf. Coleraine will need to be back on top form if they are to progress to the last eight in this competition. At this stage there are still six teams, out of 16, from the North West Cricket Union, but Coleraine have one of the toughest challenges ahead to join any of them in the Quarter finals.
The game on Sunday starts at 12.30pm at Sandel Lodge.
At the same time as the 1st XI play Strabane next Saturday at Strabane Park, the 2nd XI are playing the Strabane 2nd XI at Sandel Lodge. Both these games are scheduled to start at 1pm. In fact, all four Coleraine teams are in action next Saturday, as the 3rds and 4ths are away to Bready 3rds and Newbuildings 2nds in their respective leagues.