Four seasons ago Coleraine 2nd XI were on the verge of being relegated to the North West Intermediate League 4.
Saturday saw them complete a remarkable transformation when they ended the season in third place in the top Intermediate League only three points behind the winners Donemana. Saturday’s game also marked a special day for the Chopra family with Vishal taking the cricket field with his two sons Rishi and Varun for the very first time.
Skipper Pete Wallace lost the toss and his Strabane counterpart decided to bat first. Strabane openers were content to be patient against a tight opening spell by Andrew Douglas and Kyle Martin. However their attempt to break the shackles led to their downfall with Douglas claiming the wickets of the two openers.
The new batsmen Paul McNamee and Mark Roulston found scoring much easier and had taken the score onto 73 for 2 before Roulston was bowled by Rishi Chopra. A further wicket by Kyle Martin had Strabane on 111 for 4 after 35 overs and seemed well set for a score towards 200. However David Doey had other ideas and he picked up 5 of the remaining 6 wickets to skittle Strabane out for 130. Doey finished with excellent figures of 5 for 19.
Coleraine sent in two teenagers Matthew Douglas and Matthew Smyth to open the reply and they looked comfortable enough but they both fell LBW in quick succession. The further loss of Steven Harper and Pete Wallace saw Coleraine at 54 for 4 and Strabane would have been hopeful of pulling off an unexpected victory.
But any nervousness in the Coleraine camp was certainly allayed by Vishal Chopra and Gerald Barnes. Chopra batted superbly despite suffering a blow on his shin whilst fielding peppering the off side boundary on numerous occasions whereas Barnes was explosive lofting 2 maximums high over the leg side boundary. Barnes was unable to see the team home and was caught out for 25 going for one big shot too many. Rishi Chopra joined his dad and it was fitting that Vishal won the match with a six to finish on 58 not out and see Coleraine home with over 16 overs to spare.
Coleraine 2nd XI can take many positives from this season. A creditable third place finish along with semi-final appearances in the Ulster Plate and Intermediate Cup can encourage the team to push on next season. Speaking from Treviso, Italy where he is currently on holiday, team manager Nigel Barr said: “I’d like to thank all the players for the contribution they have made towards the season so I would now. It has been a fantastic season. Unfortunately we were beaten in the semi final of the Ulster Cup and Intermediate Cup where I felt we were unlucky not to go through and win any silverware.
“We competed well in the league but unfortunately the defeat to Donemana put paid to our hopes of winning the league. But I think Pete Wallace, who succeeded me as captain, has been an unbelievable skipper this season. He has motivated the team very well and created a fantastic team spirit and I think next season there will be honours for this team.”