North West cricket’s showpiece, the Northern Bank Senior Cup Final was played out in ideal conditions at the weekend and before a bumper crowd, Bready finally ended their 15-year wait for a senior trophy when they deservedly edged out Tyrone neighbours Donemana.
Going into the game many felt that it was the players who wouldn’t be playing who held the key and while it looks in hindsight that absence played a part, there can be little doubt either that Trevor Hamilton’s men were the better side over the two days.
Donemana were forced to field without Andy McBrine and Ryan Hunter, both on World Cup qualifying duty with Ireland under-19’s and Bready were without Ian Young, who was attending his sister’s wedding in England, but it was the Magheramason side that coped better. Hamilton won the all-important toss as well but having waited so long to end their drought, few will have begrudged Bready their rub of the green.
There is usually a bit in it for the bowlers during the first hour at Eglinton and, particularly with the early start, the Bready skipper can be forgiven for thinking long and hard before deciding to bat. #
Brian Scalon and David Rankin opened the innings while Ritchie McBrine and Dwayne McGarrigle shared the new ball. It was first blood to Donemana when in the very first over of the game, McBrine trapped Scalon leg before. One of the most controversial moments of the weekend followed in the very next over when Rankin looked to have edged one to Ricky-Lee Dougherty but the umpire adjudged that the ball had come off his arm, not his glove, and to the fielding side’s disbelief, the opener survived.
Steven Clarke had replaced Scanlon in the middle and after a shaky first couple of overs, the batsmen had settled. Rankin in particular seemed ready to take on all comers but just as he looked set to pick up the pace, Clarke fell to Donemana professional Kamran Sajid.
Worse was to follow for Bready when Dwayne McGarrigle picked up a ‘snorter’ of a catch in the slips to get rid of their overseas man, Agha Sabir Ali, leaving the Magheramason side looking slightly uncomfortable on 70 for 3.
The innings now looked to be all about Rankin who was joined by Brian Crumley, a fairly new recruit to the senior ranks despite boasting a superb record in the Intermediate side. Rankin reached his half century shortly afterwards but Crumley was no back number and once he was in, he began to match his club-mate blow for blow. Over the next two hours the batsmen completely dominated the Donemana attack and put together a 160-run stand that was almost certainly to prove the difference between the sides.
Rankin had the head start in the race for individual glory and he was first to his century as he walloped a huge six off Jordan McGonagle and having reached three figures, the big opener fancied ‘rattling the tins’ some more. In the chase for quick runs however he took one liberty too many against Robert Huey and was clean bowled by one of the men brought into the Holm side to replace McBrine and Hunter. His innings ended with a personal contribution of 126 including 15 fours, 3 sixes and a 7 and from that point Bready always looked favourites.
Crumley was still there of course and having found his range, he wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip. Trevor Hamilton’s side’s middle order has been troublesome all season but they looked to have found the solution just in the nick of time as the new man reached his century as well with a brilliant knock containing 13 fours and a six. Crumley too went after quick runs once he had posted his hundred but failed to add to his tally and left the field to a standing ovation.
Donemana now desperately needed to keep Bready below the 300-mark but a quick 27 not out from James Long, another new man in the side, put paid to that plan as the batting side finished on 304 for 7. Kamran Sajid was the pick of the Donemana attack with 4 for 53 but the first round of four was clearly Bready’s.
Quick Response Needed
The Holm men needed to start the reply well and skipper Kee and Graeme Boyd looked to have done just that with a 49-run before Boyd fell to Bryan Scanlon for 24. Kee needed to hang about at that stage however his opposite number Hamilton gave his team a real boost by removing not just Kee but also the dangerous Ricky-Lee Dougherty in quick succession.
Donemana’s reply now seemed to hinge on Kamran Sajid and Junior McBrine and that pair decided that discretion was the better part of valour as they dug in to rebuild the innings. They posted a very useful 79-run fourth wicket stand but the pace of it meant that there was now little chance of Donemana getting up towards that 304.
McBrine was out as he tried to poach a few big hits but while Sajid defended his patch, he looked very ill at ease against the slow stuff and Bready knew it. Young spinner Marc Fleming has been a revelation for his team this summer and despite unsurprisingly appearing a little nervous at first he then turned the heat up on Donemana by getting rid of both Dwayne McGarrigle and James McBrine in the space of nine balls.
Richard Kee’s side was teetering now, still 130 runs adrift and obviously decided that getting as close as possible ahead of Day Two was the only avenue left open. Dale Olphert joined Sajid and those two added a precious 56 runs, Olphert and then Jordan McGonagle finding the trees as Donemana somehow managed to get to within 55 runs of the target and keep the game in the melting pot.
Sajid’s 81was easily their best effort and coupled with his four wickets in the Bready innings the Pakistani was quickly becoming the key man for the 2009 winners.
With a 55-run start Bready knew that the pressure was now on their opponents to keep them hemmed in and it was little surprise that Trevor Hamilton stuck with the same order as in the first innings.
That said however, Donemana’s huge support were soon in good voice after Graeme Boyd took a superb catch at the second attempt to get rid of the dangerous Rankin. The Holm side were firmly back in the game soon after when Brian Scanlon was caught by Dale Olphert off the bowling of Dwayne McGarrigle for 18 to reduce Bready to 44 for 2.
Hamilton’s side then looked to their professional Sabir to steady the ship and in partnership with Steven Clarke, he did exactly that. Runs weren’t as free flowing this time around but Clarke was playing the perfect anchor as Bready’s game plan became obvious- keep wickets in hand and launch an assault in the last ten overs. In trying to keep the board ticking over however Sabir tried one big hit too many and was caught on the boundary by Ritchie McBrine having made 46.
Clarke was joined in the middle by Crumley as Bready consolidated once more before the former reached a very patient but very valuable half century as his side went into those last ten overs on 157 for 3.
With seven wickets to play with Bready injected the pace straight away and Donemana were unable to counter. Clarke went in the run chase for a well played 56 but Crumley continued where he had left off on Friday, adding 42 as the runs flowed. Mark Olphert, batting down the order smacked an unbeaten 38 and James Long got in on the act as well with a last over cameo as Bready added 94 runs in that last ten.
All of that meant that the league leaders needed to find 307 to lift the cup and without two of their top batsmen it looked a long way off.
Mountain to climb
To be fair, skipper Kee showed from the off that they were going to die with their boots on as he shuffled the pack in a desperate bid for glory.
Professional Sajid and Dwayne McGarrigle were sent in to open the innings, a sensible move to allow the Pakistani to bat against the seamers early on while McGarrigle can be ultra destructive if he gets going. Those two put on 42 for the first wicket before McGarrigle fell looking for quick runs, bringing Kee to the middle at number 3.
Sajid and his skipper offered some entertaining resistance and indeed afforded Donemana the chance of keeping up with the rate, albeit temporarily, as the Holm side bit back. Bready then interrupted the fun by turning to the spinners and the end came into sight when Sajid was completely out-foxed by Trevor Hamilton and was gone for 47. Straight after that, Adam Warnock bowled Kee for 34 and while it is always folly to write Donemana off it looked all over bar the shouting.
Warnock then turned provider, taking a sharp catch at short fine leg to see the end of Ricky Lee Dougherty and despite Junior McBrine and Graeme Boyd trying to set up a grandstand finish, the Magheramason men were now in complete control. With time running out Junior was caught off the bowling of Marc Fleming for 29 and the young spinner then took the catch that ended Graeme Boyd’s final and Bready were able to tidy up the tail thanks to two good catches in the deep from David Scanlon.
It was party time for the new cup holders and while excuses can be made for Donemana, they were far from their best over the two days. Having won both innings however, there was no disputing Bready were definitely the better side over the weekend. The victors gambled with their team selection but their plan to concentrate on the slow stuff worked a treat and they enjoyed the little bit of luck that every cup winning side needs.
Brian Crumley was a thoroughly deserving winner of the man-of-the match award in a cup final that although hardly a classic, had all the ingredients of a smashing two days.