ARMAGH’S poor run in NCU Section Two continued when they lost out to leaders Bangor at Upritchard Park.
The ground certainly appeared in good condition after the heavy rain early in the week and Armagh were a little surprised when Bangor invited them to bat first after winning the toss. Armagh started solidly with Michael Villiers and Michael Hoey looking in decent touch and quite comfortable against the new ball but as has occurred a few times this season a good start was lost with the fall of three quick wickets with only Hoey slightly unfortunate to be caught via his pad. Colin Russell and Stuart Lester looked to rebuild the innings and were doing a good job together with some positive shots around the large outfield.
Alas disaster was not far away as three of the next four wickets fell to run-outs as confusion reigned and the slick Bangor fielding side were able to take full advantage. Colin Russell was providing the only real resistance as he reached a well-deserved half century in what was a dogged battling effort that contained five boundaries. Unfortunately he departed caught on the boundary attempting to increase the scoring rate and the end was near as Armagh were bundled out for a below par score of 120.
Bangor’s poor start in the return fixture at the Mall had given the team some hope as they took to the field but the Bangor openers Nixon and Parker looked in fine touch from the off as they were able to exploit the lifeless nature of the wicket with some excellent strokeplay as runs were fairly easy to come by.
Armagh had a bit more success when the change bowling pair of Stuart Lester and Andrew Walbran were introduced and took a bit of pace off the ball and bowled a good line and length. Bangor were still in total cruise control and to an extent their confidence seemed to turn to arrogance as they seemed to lose focus.
The first wicket fell at 83 when Parker tried to paddle-scoop Walbran but only succeeded in getting a top edge to Jordan Wright at square leg. The young leg-spinner Wright was introduced in the very next over and struck straight away as Burns tried to loft him down the ground only to be sensationally caught one-handed by the diving Harry Doyle.
Things got better for Armagh when Bangor’s top player Nixon injudiciously tried to smash Walbran down the ground but was caught by the safe hands of Matthew Steenson. Bangor were slipping quickly and it got even worse when their ‘professional’ Michael Clark decided to go down the pitch to try and smash the leg spin of Wright but missed and was smartly stumped by Armagh captain Gareth McCarter. The same combination struck again in the same over when an edge from McKeown off the leg-spinner was caught at the wicket and suddenly Bangor had slipped from 83-0 to 98-5 and Armagh suddenly had a small chance in the game.
Unfortunately though the brave visitors simply didn’t have enough runs on the board and home captain Law took a few risks to score a brisk 21 to see his faltering side home by five wickets and another step closer to promotion. Jordan Wright finished with excellent figures of 3-11 off 6 overs with two maidens.Armagh in the meantime still remain closer to the bottom of the table than they would prefer and would certainly welcome another league win sooner rather than later.
After the game, Armagh captain Gareth McCarter admitted that “while he was proud of the efforts of the players in the field it came when the game was more or less over as a contest. 120 is never going to be enough to defend at a venue like this and we need to look at how we apply ourselves and value our wickets”.
He said: “We are glad to see that Andy Walbran has really rediscovered his bowling form but especially today the performance of our young spinner Jordan Wright. A lot of opponents and umpires have been commenting about his potential but hopefully a superb display like this will make him believe and give Jordan the confidence to keep performing well for the team.”
Next weekend the Firsts travel to Cooke Collegians for an Ulster Bank Section 2 fixture.
Armagh’s Colts Cup campaign ended last Wednesday night when they lost a keenly contested semi-final against the competitions eventual winners Waringstown. Despite battling hard to defend a low total the visitors prevailed by 5 wickets. Despite the defeat the Armagh side that was brilliantly led by William Dougan can be very proud of a fine campaign where they defeated higher ranked opposition in every round. The continued success of the youth sides and the progression of players into all three senior teams should be encouraging for the future.