THE fixture at the Mall was the only senior game in the Northern Cricket Union to beat the elements after a rain swept week all around the country and in stark contrast to the beautiful conditions that players had enjoyed the previous weekend.
The groundsteam led by Norman Graham deserve tremendous credit for ensuring that a game went ahead that everyone had assumed to be unlikely. Bangor travelled to the Mall after a similar start to the season as experienced by Armagh but given the Premier League experience of the majority of their side were sure to pose a tough contest for the city side.
After a delayed start due to a few light showers and a reduction to 46 overs, Bangor won the toss and elected to bowl first on a green pitch but one that looked to have fair pace and bounce early on. Armagh openers Michael Villiers and Phil Doyle looked in reasonable touch early on but both perished on the attack against Nixon, Colin Russell was caught behind and after Michael Hoey was desperately unfortunate to play-on and Stuart Lester was run out by a sharp piece of fielding,
Armagh looked in all sorts of trouble at 59-5. Fortunately though for the home team, Harry Boyd joined Matthew Steenson and the two shared a solid and enterprising partnership to try and rebuild the innings, combining sensible play with a bit of aggression when it was required. The pair were building nicely and looked to be in control against the spinners but Steenson got out off a leading edge for 31 and was followed soon after by Harry Doyle on the attack against the spin.
Boyd was next to depart, another unfortunate to get out playing on while trying to attack the returning Nixon having scored 39 valuable runs for his teams effort.
The last few overs saw an entertaining stand of 36 as captain Gareth McCarter was joined by Andrew Walbran and the pair batted smartly for unbeaten 17 and 18 respectively as Armagh hauled themselves to a respectable 163-8 from their 46 overs, a score restricted by an excellent fielding effort from the Bangor side.
Armagh needed a good start if they were going to have any hope of defending that total and got exactly when Harry Doyle took two wickets in his opening over taking out both McKeown and visiting captain Law. Bangor batsman Burns had scored 160 last Sunday against Holywood but came back to earth with a duck this week as he was adjudged lbw to Stuart Lester putting Armagh in a terrific position.
Bangor looked to rebuild with their professional Michael Clark playing an important role but both were dismissed by Lester who completed a magnificent display of swing and seam bowling, taking 3-24 in his ten overs as Armagh were well on top with Bangor five down.
Unfortunately for Armagh that was as good as it got with Bangor mounting a magnificent fightback led by Andrew Nixon but ably supported by Adam McCusker as they were able to rotate the strike almost at will against the Armagh change bowlers and no matter what fields or bowling combinations were attempted by the home side the pair were able to survive and score comfortably.
Walbran, Hoey and Jordan Wright all did what they could with the ball but it is fair to say that neither player gave a chance as Nixon passed his half century as Bangor met the winning line with a tremendous century partnership as well as unbeaten scores of 61 and 46 respectively for Nixon and McCusker as Bangor won by 5 wickets.
NCU Section 2
Armagh 163-8 (46 Overs) H.Boyd 39, M.Steenson 31. A.Nixon 3-21.
Bangor 166-5 (43.2 Overs) A.Nixon 61*, A.McCusker 46*. S.Lester 3-24.
Bangor win by 5 wickets
After the game, Armagh captain Gareth McCarter reflected that his team simply hadn’t scored enough runs on the day.
“163 was a decent effort in recovery from our bad start but realistically all it did was give us a chance rather than making themfavourites.
“All of our batsmen got starts but no-one carried on to make the match winning score that teams need. In the last 3 games we have lost our oppositions star batsman has either been unbeaten at the end or scored a century before getting out and that’s what it takes. While we didn’t bowl brilliantly aside from Stuart Lester who was magnificent; the Bangor batting didn’t give us a chance during the partnership that sealed the game for them. They have been the best team we have met this year with consistent bowling, terrific fielding and a strong batting list despite the poor start they made today. Playing against good sides like that can only make us improve too hopefully.”
This weekend Armagh do not have a Saturday fixture due to cup commitments for Cooke Collegians but they have agreed to travel to The Mall on Sunday for the Section 2 contest. Armagh will be keen to get back on track after three defeats but the Junior Cup holders are sure to pose a difficult task. Sunday’s fixture starts at 1pm.
You can keep up with the latest news from Armagh Cricket Club online at www.armaghcricketclub.co.uk or on Twitter @ArmaghCC. Armagh would like to thank Tom Dawson for sponsoring the matchball for the game against Bangor and John Doyle for the game at Drumaness. Their support is greatly appreciated and for more information on sponsorship please contact George Breakey.