ARMAGH suffered a nightmare weekend when they lost two home matches on the Mall to Drumaness and Cook Collegians respectively to leave them still too close to the bottom of Ulster Bank Division Two for comfort.
Saturday’s encounter saw the visitors of Drumaness bat first on a lively wicket and compiled a decent score of 173-9 in their fifty overs. As is so often the case their leading batsman Neil Gelston led the way with an excellent 78 before he was confidently caught on the boundary by Andrew Smyth. Armagh missed a few chances in the field but put in a largely disciplined effort with the ball with Stuart Lester and Andrew Walbran bowling tight ten overs spells while Johnny Morton and then Michael bowled well later in the innings; the latter taking an impressive 3-32 bowling at the death.
Armagh started steadily but as all too often been the case lost wickets in groups as they slumped into an unfavourable position as 59-1 changed quickly to 110-8. Matthew Steenson was batting quite beautifully but lacked any real support and was eventually out caught on the midwicket boundary for a battling 64 that contained ten boundaries.
Armagh had began to rebuild slightly firstly through Steenson and Walbran who was then joined by last man Jordan Wright with over 30 still required but the last pair batted sensibly and kept their cool and the target crept slowly closer.
Tension was building and the Armagh crowd perhaps began to believe that a miracle could happen but sadly it wasn’t to be as the resistance of the gallant youngster Wright was ended as he was clean bowled by Brendan Gelston to seal a ten run victory for Drumaness. Saturday’s matchball was sponsored by W.J.Lester.
Armagh v Drumaness
Drumaness 173-9: N.Gelston 78, M.Hoey 3-32, A.Walbran 2-22.
Armagh 163 all out: M.Steenson 64, N.Walsh 3-32.
Drumaness win by ten runs.
Armagh took to the field again on Sunday in a rearranged fixture with Cooke Collegians who won the toss and elected to bat first on a wicket that had become a lot easier to bat on than the day before. Their captain Richard Johnson certainly likes playing on the Mall as he survived a few early scares to bat with tremendous fluency and conviction.
Cooke’s score was really racing along with Armagh seemingly powerless to stop them and it took a wonderful boundary catch by Michael Villiers to remove Johnson for 85 off the bowling of Walbran who was again bowling well. Johnson struck 11 fours and a six in an excellent innings. After that breakthrough Armagh were able to fight back into the game by taking regular wickets with Johnny Morton particularly impressing in this allotted 7 over spell by taking 3-19.
Cooke had slipped from 129-1 to 171-8 but were able to finish well thanks to the belligerent hitting of Sachin Shukla who batted wonderfully in the late overs to score 54 not out and take his team to a strong score of 219-8 in their 50 overs. As well as Morton starring with 3 wickets, Andrew Smyth and Andy Walbran took two each while Matthew Wright was rather unfortunate not to take any.
In response to a tough start Armagh needed a good start but didn’t get it as they slipped to 24-3 with Villiers, Hoey and Russell all dismissed by Stinson thanks to some wonderful catches. Again Matthew Steenson had to try and rebuild a flagging innings and felt aggression was the best policy as he took on Cooke’s bowlers throughout an entertaining cameo of hard-hitting strokeplay.
He looked on course for a big score when he was bowled by Dale for 49 that contained 6 fours and a six perhaps attempting one shot too many. With the loss of the in-form Steenson probably went any realistic hopes of Armagh victory but the win for Cooke Collegians was at least held up by a useful partnership between Gareth McCarter and Andrew Smyth who were the only other Armagh players to reach double figures.
The Armagh captain scored a useful 30 but it was merely delaying the inevitable as Armagh were all out for 139 losing by the convincing margin of 80 runs. Sunday’s matchball was sponsored by Finlay Scott.
Armagh v Cooke Collegians
Cooke Collegians 219-8: R.Johnson 85, S.Shukla54, L.Willmott 31. J.Morton 3-19.
Armagh 139 all out: M.Steenson 49, G.McCarter 30. J.Stinson 3-19, W.Dale 3-38, G.Pollock 3-41.
Cooke Collegians win by 80 runs.
Armagh captain Gareth McCarter commented that his team had suffered a “hard weekend with missed chances proving costly”.
He said: “Again the opposition’s best player had scored the decisive runs in both matches while our batting, with the exception of the terrific Matthew Steenson, had more or less failed on both days. The team just has to continue to work hard and turn things around as they entered the closing weeks of the season.”
This weekend the 1st XI travel to face a strong Bangor side at Upritchard Park. The game starts at noon.