Armagh faced Derriaghy in a Gardiner Brothers League Section One fixture on a rather overcast Saturday on the Mall.
After home skipper Steenson lost the toss it was no surprise that Derriaghy elected to bowl first on an unusually green track after Fridays torrential rains.
The Armagh openers got off to the worst start possible as from just the first ball of the innings Neil Gelston looked to punish a full toss only to be caught at short cover by an extraordinary catch. This brought Colin Russell to the crease and he and Jamie Rogers began to build a partnership.
In the tough scoring conditions the Armagh pair punished any loose bowling where available but soon after the pair brought up their 50 partnership disaster struck as Rogers was somewhat harshly dismissed leg before wicket. With the score at 62-2 skipper Matthew Steenson came and went quickly after he smashed a huge six but then was adjudged to be lbw off the bowling of Hughes.
Russell departed for 28 soon after when he misjudged another full toss from Hughes. Michael Hoey then strode to the crease with intent to build on his brisk 40 from last Saturday against Donaghcloney Mill. As Hoey and Barnes bedded in the latter edged behind for a dogged 13 off the bowling of Moorehead, the score sat at only 116 and Armagh looked to be in trouble.
Thankfully Hoey stepped up and after surviving a tough early chance really showed his form, taking singles where available and being the only Armagh bat to find the boundary with any kind of regularity.
The crowd rose to acknowledge an excellent half century for Hoey, his first of the 2017 season and even when he was dismissed for 54 in the final few overs, it was a gutsy effort that had brought his team back into contention. Former Armagh medium pacer Mink Stinson went wicketless for the visitors in the six overs his team allowed him.
Sammy Wilson and Harry Doyle ably supported in the closing overs meaning Armagh’s innings finished on 173-9 off the 50. While this may have looked below par the score was competitive and if Armagh could bowl well then they would be in with every chance.
Jared Barnes and Ben Mackey opened the bowling for Armagh looking for an improvement on last weeks opening spell and they didn’t have to wait long for reward as in the first over of play Barnes struck dismissing Jennings dead in front leg before wicket.
The Armagh dynamic new ball duo were restricting the runs and threatening almost constantly. Mackey then struck in his third over as Bell looked to drive only to loft it to Russell at cover who took a smart low catch. The Derriaghy batsmen had no answer for the swing available to Mackey and he removed Malone and Bailey soon after with trademark deliveries.
The Derriaghy score sat at 33-4 and this brought Northern Knights representative player Craig Lewis to the crease. As Mackey finished his spell Neil Gelston who with Barnes restricted the run rate further. In Barnes 7th over he struck another crucial breakthrough as Moorehead inside edged it onto his stumps for 16.
With Andrew Kenny new to the crease Armagh knew that if the broke this partnership they had a real chance of winning. Barnes finished his spell and diminutive left armer Harry Doyle was brought on with great success In just his first over he dismissed Kenny as he clean bowled him with a pacey delivery.
The dangerous Lewis was on 33 and while struggling with an injury was beginning to punish Armagh only for Doyle who beat him for pace and edged behind to wicketkeeper Gareth McCarter. The Derriaghy tail-end was dismissed rather quickly as Doyle took the wicket of Jamison who skied one into the safe hands of Alan Whitcroft while Neil Gelston clean bowled Sinovich with a crafty spinning delivery.
The last word went to Alan Whitcroft who finished proceedings as Hughes lobbed on into the safe hands of Harry Doyle at mid off. Armagh ended up winning by the handsome margin of 68 runs to complete a league double over the much vaunted Derriaghy team who played Premier League cricket in 2016.
Captain Matthew Steenson was understandably delighted with the teams performance and victory.
He said: “We spoke about how we had let ourselves down last weekend against Donaghcloney and that this week needed to be better and to be fair it was. We had to tough it out at time with the bat and its great to see Michael Hoey’s work in training coming good for him.
“That innings was the difference maker without doubt as it meant we had a defendable score. I fancied us to make an impact with the ball and Jarred and Ben gave us a good start. Harry Doyle has been a valuable player for us on the rare occasions that he is allowed to play and he showed his craft with the ball on Saturday.
“We have a couple of big weeks ahead of us and its up to us to work hard and have our season pan out the way we want it to.”
This Saturday the 1st XI travel to Academy on Saturday for a noon start in the league while Sunday morning sees the T20 Trophy final at The Lawn Waringstown against Woodvale with an 11.30am start.