The penultimate weekend of the North West Premier League saw Coleraine 1st XI host Bready at Sandel Lodge on Saturday and then travel to Beechgrove on Sunday to play League leaders Brigade.
The first of these fixtures saw Bready take advantage of winning the toss by putting Coleraine in to bat on a pitch which proved to be both slow and bowler-friendly.
At 43 for 4, Scott Campbell and Kyllin Vardhan came together and forged a valuable 50 run partnership, but apart from Campbell (37) and Vardhan (28) only Matthew Douglas (17) and Gareth Burns (12) made it to double figures as Coleraine struggled to a total of 128 all out in 49 overs.
This looked well short of a defendable score as Bready’s opening batsmen cruised to 59 without loss. The decision to introduce Scott Campbell and Varun Chopra to the attack however was to prove decisive. They built pressure on the batsmen by bowling six tight overs and then the breakthrough came as Campbell had David Barr trapped lbw and in the following over Chopra dismissed the other opener David Rankin.
Within the next six overs 4 more wickets fell for the addition of just 7 runs and suddenly Bready were in real trouble on 66 for 6. Varun Chopra kept the pressure up as he claimed his second 5 wicket haul of the season and Campbell completed the rout as he bagged the key wicket of Bready’s overseas professional Ernst Kemm. After that it was only a matter of time before Jarred Barnes and Gordon Cooke wrapped up the innings, dismissing Bready for 95 in just 35 overs.
Campbell, who top scored with the bat returned the excellent figures of 3 wickets for just 8 runs off his ten overs, as Coleraine recorded a remarkable 33 run victory.
Unfortunately while the bright and sunny conditions enjoyed on Saturday continued into Sunday morning, they did not last. Again Coleraine batted first and this time it was Niall McDonnell (43) and Gordon Cooke (30 not out) who led the way with the bat, supported by a spirited 20 from teenager Stephen Hutchinson as the visitors posted a total of 151.
Rain delayed the start of Brigade’s innings and when play got underway the home side’s opening batsmen added 48 before Ian McGregor was caught off the bowling of Jarred Barnes and then in the next over Mattie Moran became the first victim of Mattie Smyth.
Seventeen year old Smyth also accounted for Brigade’s professional D Amarnath but once again the rain intervened with only 25 overs played. The Duckworth Lewis calculation put Brigade ahead as persistent rain ruled out any further play. Brigade were declared the winners by 26 runs under the DL method.
After the game both teams took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support, raising over £250 from donations by the players and spectators.
Next Saturday, in their penultimate league fixture, Coleraine will visit Eglinton who are currently just above the 7th place, relegation playoff position in the Premier League following a win this weekend against Ardmore. Coleraine then have their final game of the season on Sunday, in a replay against Strabane who are still challenging Brigade for the title. The game starts at Sandel Lodge at 12 noon.
Meanwhile, Coleraine 2nds and their visitors Eglinton were met with great cricketing weather on Sunday morning.
After a late team change, the evergreen Vishal Chopra made his return to the side. It wasn’t long before Chopra found himself out in the middle when Coleraine lost their first wicket with the score at 4. It looked as if Chopra hadn’t lost a step and looked well set for a big score before he nicked one through to the obliging Eglinton wicketkeeper for a fluent 40. Coleraine’s batting line-up now found themselves in familiar territory, teetering at 52/4 and in much need of someone to put their hand up and be counted. Ali Handforth did just that with an uncharacteristically watchful innings. A well grafted and patient knock of 56 brought the hosts up to a competitive final total of 144.
Coleraine’s opening bowlers, Andrew Douglas (1-40) and Harper (3-38) gave their team the perfect start and in no time Eglinton were reeling at 9/2 with opener Nelis and number three Lamrock both dismissed, the latter thanks to a stinger of catch from JD Muller. The aforementioned glorious conditions were soon but a distant memory when the heavens opened and play was duly suspended. This led to a few frustrating rain stoppages which left the outfield soaking, thus making it very difficult for the home side’s bowlers to grip the cricket ball which soon closely resembled a bar of soap.
When play resumed Eglinton’s McCloskey was let off the hook with a couple of difficult, yet dropped catches. He made the most of his good fortune and went on to make 56 before being dismissed by Brian Acheson towards the end of the game. The wicket of McCloskey however came a little too late for Coleraine as Eglinton were brought home to victory by their captain Lee Ritchie who finished on 41 not out.