ARMAGH’S unbeaten run in Ulster Bank Section 2 came to an abrupt end when they were well beaten on consecutive days at Drumaness and then at home to Holywood on the wonderful sundrenched Mall.
On Saturday, Armagh travelled to Drumaness and elected to bat first after they won the toss but got off to a dreadful start when makeshift opener Harry Doyle was caught and bowled by Oldroyd. Progress proved difficult for Armagh as wickets fell at all too regular intervals with a combination of some poor strokes leading to players downfalls after they had got off to starts but couldn’t continue.
Only Stuart Lester was able to provide any semblance of resistance as he produced an impressive innings of power hitting as he added 58 runs for the tenth wicket with his captain Gareth McCarter who ably supported to defy the bowlers. The stand was all about Lester though who reached his 50 in spectacular fashion with a pulled six then fell the next ball attempting the same shot and being well caught on the boundary to give Oldroyd impressive figures of 4-23. Lester’s 50 contained five boundaries and three sixes as it enabled Armagh to reach some level of respectability as they were dismissed for 123.
To have any opportunity of seizing an unlikely win Armagh knew they would have to bowl wonderfully well and in fairness Andrew Smyth led the way spectacularly well as he produced a magnificent ball in his first over to find the edge of G.Walsh through to the gloves of McCarter. His second over brought another breakthrough when N.Walsh could only skew an attempted drive into the safe hands of Duncan Steed at mid-off. At 10-2 Armagh were back in the game but needed more wickets with the regularity that Drumaness had managed to find them. Unfortunately Drumaness’ star player and captain Neil Gelston had different ideas and assisted by Cunningham they put on over 100 for the 3rd wicket to see their team home. Armagh had the chances, none moreso when Cunningham clearly edged Harry Doyle through to McCarter but declined to do the sporting thing and walk and regrettably the umpire failed to hear the loud noise.Aside from Smyth Armagh didn’t bowl particularly well and Gelston led the way with an unbeaten 68 that contained nine boundaries and four sixes in a sublime display of strokeplay. Armagh’s eight wicket defeat was a convincing one and the team would certainly be hoping to bounce back against Holywood the next day.
Armagh 123 all out: S.Lester 50. D.Oldroyd 4-23, N.Gelston 2-7, N.Walsh 2-21.
Drumaness 124-2: N.Gelston 68*, J.Cunningham 39*. A.Smyth 2-23.
Drumaness win by 8 wickets
Armagh returned to action the very next day as they hosted a rearranged game with Holywood. The Mall looked in absolutely fantastic condition as the ground was glorious in the sunshine. The away side were delighted when they won the toss and unsurprisingly elected to bat first on a hard strip. The pitch had plenty of pace and bounce too though and Armagh’s opening pair of Harry Doyle and Andrew Smyth were in terrific form early on. Doyle was magnificent, removing Kerrigan courtesy of a catch behind from McCarter in the first over. The pressure from the opening pair was unrelenting and Doyle had more successes when he clean bowled both captain Hayes and Turkington to leave Holywood struggling on 33-3. However their top player Philip McCormick had battled through to survive Armagh’s opening salvo and looked increasingly comfortable, playing an array of quite terrific drives around the ground to get his team moving. Finding some support from P.Bardgett, Holywood built an excellent partnership of 91 runs. Armagh really needed a breakthrough and they got it when the under-15 captain Jordan Wright claimed his first wicket on his senior debut when Bardgett charged down the pitch at him, missed and was stumped by McCarter. Indeed Wright would bowl his ten overs straight through in an excellent spell of leg-spin bowling and the youngster certainly has a bright future in senior cricket, even completing a wonderful direct hit run-out to dismiss Marks. Harry Doyle returned to take a 4th wicket in a great ten over allocation, taking his four wickets for 37 runs in his ten overs. There was no stopping McCormick reaching his century though as he reached the milestone in a terrific innings whether he virtually gave no clear chances, striking 19 boundaries along the way. He fell soon after caught at the wicket by McCarter off the bowling of Andrew Walbran, who returned from the Courthouse End to rip through the Holywood tail, with a catch for Steenson and two clean bowled as he finished with fine figures of 4-20 from his spell. Holywood might have been disappointed to have been restricted to 216 all out but in truth McCormick received little support and with a bit more fortune Armagh could certainly have had a smaller target to chase.
After a long 50 overs in the field Armagh were certainly hopeful of a strong start in persuit of their target but that plan didn’t follow through as again the top order batting had a hard time of it up against the Holywood attack led by the swing bowling of Best who claimed 4 wickets early on as the Armagh innings was left ragged at 46-5 after only 12 overs. A serious rebuilding job was required and Stuart Lester and Harry Boyd worked hard to try and get the chase back on track, combining some crisp strokes with good running between the wickets as the pair put on 49 together before Lester was unlucky to be caught in the gully off a leading edge. McCarter joined Boyd and they continued to make slow but steady progress with another thirty plus added to the score before Boyd was out for 36, the top score on the day. McCarter followed soon after for 21 and although Andy Smyth and Andrew Walbran attempted to push things along the latter fell to a high catch before the latter delighted the crowd with a fine flicked six. In the last over Armagh finally lost their final wicket as Wright was bowled by the part-time spin of Holywood captain Hayes as Armagh’s brave lower-order resistance was ended 32 runs short as Holywood left the Mall with the points.
Holywood 216 all out: P.McCormick 102, P.Bardgett 35. A.Walbran 4-20, H.Doyle 4-37.
Armagh 184 all out: H.Boyd 36, S.Lester 31. M.Best 4-27.
Holywood win by 32 runs.
Armagh captain Gareth McCarter reflected on a disappointing weekend which his team had entered unbeaten in the league and hopeful of more points and ended with two defeats to their name. “We didn’t bat well enough on either day really and that goes a long way to explaining our two defeats. You don’t win games of senior cricket from 40-5 and we found ourselves in positions like that on both days. We were missing a bit of batting strength certainly but you just need to get through those setbacks as a team and move forward. Two games in two days is hard work and I am delighted with the effort on Sunday when we were so much better in the field and with the ball. Harry Doyle bowled a great spell with pace and bounce we haven’t seen on the Mall for quite a while. A mention too for Jordan Wright on his senior debut, definitely very impressive but no surprise to the players who have seen him in practice.
Armagh Cricket Club would like to thank the ball sponsors from this weekends matches and the 1st XI look forward to their next game on the Mall next weekend as they host Bangor. The game starts at 1pm.