It was a weekend of changing fortunes for Armagh as they were beaten by league leaders Woodvale on Saturday – only to turn the tables and claim victory in the away fixture the following day.
Armagh returned to Robinson Services League Section One action against runaway league leaders Woodvale on the Mall on Saturday.
Despite the week’s poor weather, the Armagh ground team deserve huge credit for getting the game on with only a short delay. The visitors batted first and got off to a good start despite an early wicket for Ben Mackey who bowled really well with the new ball in pairing with Harry Doyle.
The champions elect were showing their form with dominant left handed Wayne Horwood passing 50 and Caribbean professional Boyce looking to attack beyond 100 but the home fightback began when Horwood was caught off Michael Hoey and then Neil Gelston had Boyce caught sweeping on the boundary by Samuel Wilson.
The hard-hitting Saeed hit a huge strike for 6 off Karanjkar but the Armagh player had the last laugh when a repeat attempt was brilliantly caught on the boundary by Harry Boyd. Wickets were falling regularly and the introduction of Wilson to the attack helped Armagh as he bowled accurately and with useful pace to claim three crucial late wickets.
Karanjkar also claimed three thanks to a stumping from McCarter and a catch for the final wicket from Hoey as Woodvale totalled 182. A challenging target but a good effort from Armagh as a much bigger score seemed likely.
A good response was required from Armagh but a shaky start occurred when Russell was adjudged lbw to the bowling of Bunting. Karanjkar joined Gelston and the pair batted nicely in partnership punishing anything loose but mainly consolidating. Gelston was hugely unfortunate to fall caught and bowled to a ball he struck cleanly but the bowler took a superb reaction catch.
Regardless, captain Matthew Steenson joined Karanjkar and both looked in fine touch with the overseas player passing his half century before a short rain break totally changed the pattern of the game. The introduction of the seemingly innocuous spin of McKeown removed Karanjkar to a careless shot for a player of his quality and the Armagh batting disintegrated with the scoring rate falling away and wickets falling quickly in a vain attempt to recover.
Only Doyle and Boyd showed any likelihood of putting a partnership together but unfortunately it wasn’t to be as Armagh fell short by 17 runs in a close game that Armagh will certainly feel they could have won.
Armagh v Woodvale
Woodvale 182 ao. Horwood 50, Boyce 42. S.Wilson 3-21, R.Karanjkar 3-32
Armagh 152 ao R.Karanjkar 56, M.McKeown 3-14.
Woodvale win by 17 runs (DLS) par score was 169 in 45 overs.
After the disappointment of Saturday’s defeat, Armagh travelled to the Ballygomartin Road to take on the same opposition in a rearranged match 2.
Rain delays meant the 20 over March was reduced to 14 overs a side. Armagh batter first and opened well with Gelston and Karanjkar striking nicely before Andrew Hoey came in and built well on that momentum. Another heavy shower meant the game was reduced further to 12 overs a side meaning Armagh had to go big in their last few overs to raise a competitive score. Karanjkar fell for a useful 28 while Hoey impressed with a quick 19.
In the dying overs captain Steenson was joined by Azhar and the pair scrambled what they could to a competitive total of 76-4 in the 12 overs in the face of some very tight bowling.
Armagh needed a good start to try and defend their score and got it when Saeed was smartly caught on the boundary off the bowling of Doyle.
As with Saturday, the pair of Horwood and Boyce looked to dominate but couldn’t do so against good Armagh bowling and the pro fell brilliantly caught by Azhar at point off Wilson. Horwood was the key wicket and Armagh had a huge appeal denied off the bowling of Karanjkar for a caught behind which was not given and looked to be crucial as the reprieved player was able to strike two big sixes off the previously frugal Indian spinner.
Armagh needed some magic with the home side in the box seat and they got it and more as the quality off spin of Neil Gelston came good picking up three wickets in a single over, including the key dismissal of Horwood.
This gave Armagh a route back into the game and they weren’t looking to let that slip as two brilliant closing overs from Mackey and then Azhar seen the visitors home by the slender margin of just three runs in a terrific 12 over contest.
Armagh captain Matthew Steenson was understandably proud of his side after a tough weekend’s action.
Said Matthew: “It’s fair to say that we haven’t played consistent cricket this season but this weekend against clearly the best side in the league we have stood up and performed a bit better. We certainly could have won on Saturday and got a reward for our efforts on Sunday with a crucial win. Fair play to our bowlers at the end because they came up well when we needed them to.”
This weekend Armagh travel to Ballymena for what now looks to be a midtable clash in the division but undoubtedly the city side will be looking to finish the campaign strongly. Play starts at noon.