It was another huge weekend in domestic cricket and it began very brightly for Brigade as they easily accounted for nearest challengers Bready to take a massive step towards claiming this year’s Premiership title.
It turned out to be a very high-scoring affair at Magheramason with the home side batting first and posting what looked at the time like a daunting total of 298.
Irosh Samarasooriya lead from the front as he scored 77, and the Sri Lankan received good support from Ross Dougherty and David Rankin who also contributed half centuries.
The batsmen were very much on top during the first half of the game and that trend continued into the second innings.
Brigade’s top order have been in fantastic form so far this summer, and it was a similar trait here as Iftikhar Hussain and David Barr posted centuries as Brigade cruised to a 7-wicket win.
Both batsmen were reaching three-figure scores for the second time in recent weeks and showed the depth of quality available to the Beechgrove side in a superb display.
On hindsight, the difference between the teams was Barr and Hussain being able to kick on and turn their innings into big hundreds. That allowed them to dictate the pace of their reply - something they did almost to perfection.
Bready certainly offered stirring resistance throughout the afternoon, however Brigade never looked flustered, and the title certainly now seems destined for the Limavady Road following this convincing win.
Donemana are unlikely to feature at the business end of the league this time, however the former champions did at least get back to winning ways with a 19-run verdict away at Glendermott.
Willie McClintock and Bilawal Iqbal both scored half centuries for the visitors as they racked up 252-8 from their 50 overs. That had looked unlikely earlier in the day after three wickets for Keshan Wijerathne and two each for Reece Laird and Steve Moore had reduced the Tyrone side to 167-6, before McClintock took charge.
Wijerathne top scored in the home side’s reply too- his 58 not out keeping them in it right to the end, but they just couldn’t pull it out of the fire. Iqbal picked up four wickets and Gary McClintock three as Donemana eased over the winning line.
Eglinton picked up some very valuable points after they beat Strabane by 138 runs. Stuart Thompson top scored with 68 as the hosts set the out-of-form Red Caps a target of 247 to win.
Mike Erlank hit 49 and Scott Adair an unbeaten 34 to boost the Villagers’ tally and Strabane never really threatened after that.
Aaron Gillespie made 30 in the reply but other than 26 from Peter, that was about the height of it.
Simon Dunn (3-21) Thompson (3- 24) and Stephen Dunn (2-14) combined to ensure that Strabane got no closer, keeping them rooted to the foot of the table.
It looks like being a long six weeks now for the former champions as they try to cling onto the Premier Division status.
Ballyspallen added to Coleraine’s continuing woes with a 5-wicket win at Bridge Park. Set a target of just 148 Graham Kennedy made an unbeaten 59 and Curtis McElwee 30 as ’Spallen got home with a bit to spare.
Graham Hume (3-23) was again the pick of the visitors’ bowling, but it was their lack of quality with the bat that was to cost the Bannsiders once more.
Despite a good start given to them by Dominic Madden (30) and Matthew Hutchinson (23), Kennedy (4-14) soon had the visitors in trouble.
Ballyspallen managed to keep the pressure on throughout the innings and that kept the former champions pinned to the ropes.
It has been a year of struggle for Coleraine as well, however having already beaten Strabane earlier in the season they do at least have that buffer heading into the home straight.
In the Championship, Burndennett are now just four wins away from promotion to the top flight of North West cricket after a convincing win over Killyclooney.
Once again it was their overseas man, Salman Ahmed who played the lesd role as he made 86 in their whopping total of 313. Skipper Mark Mooney and Andy Barr also hit half centuries in that big target and although Andre Henry continued his fantastic run of form for ’Clooney with 54, it was nowhere near enough.
For a while on Saturday afternoon it looked as though Co. Donegal would be the setting for Decker Curry’s long-awaited hundreth century, however it wasn’t to be.
The left-hander was dismissed just 14 short of the landmark, however the consolation was that his efforts, added to that of Ryan Brolly who made an unbeaten half century, allowed Ardmore to stay on the leaders’ tails.
Fox Lodge also got back to winnings ways in the day’s remaining game after they had 60 runs to spare over Newbuildings.