Photo Credit: Cricket Ireland
The Northern Knights started their defence of the Inter-Provincial Twenty20 Cup with a narrow two-run (D/L) victory over the North West Warriors at Bready on Thursday.
Winning the toss and electing to bowl, the Knights had early success when Graeme McCarter (2-17) bowled Nathan McGuire and Jacob Mulder (1-26) trapped David Rankin lbw to leave the Warriors sitting on 14-2 inside four overs.
William Porterfield was the glue holding the Warriors innings together, scoring 42 from 35 balls, including two sixes, before he was bowled by Harry Tector (1-11).
All-rounder Graham Hume had already made his way to the crease by this stage and was starting to motor, pushing his side over the 100 mark on his way to putting on a seventh-wicket partnership of 52 with Ross Allen (12*).
Hume finished on 47* from 40 balls as the Warriors rounded off their innings on a competitive total of 132/6.
Paul Stirling, who was one of three players making their Knights debut alongside Ross Adair and CJ van der Walt, wasted no time in getting comfortable in Inter-Provincial cricket as he helped his side get off to a flying start.
Just like their opponents, the Warriors picked up a couple of important early wickets as James McCollum and Tector were both caught off the bowling of the impressive Hume.
Stirling was starting to go through the gears, hitting two mammoth sixes off international team-mate Craig Young, adding to his four fours.
Warriors captain Andy McBrine struck with the final ball of the 7th over, having his counterpart Gary Wilson caught in the deep by Stuart Thompson, but that would be the last meaningful action as the rain started to fall.
With the Knights sitting two ahead of the D/L target, largely thanks to Stirling’s contribution of 41* from 24 balls, it meant they had got their campaign off to a winning start.
Both sides are back in action again next week with the Knights set for two home fixtures against Leinster Lightning (Tuesday, Comber – 3pm) and Munster Reds (Thursday, Stormont – 1:30pm).
The Warriors will look to bounce back at the first attempt when they travel to take on the Lightning at Pembroke on Thursday (1:30pm).
Following the victory, Knights captain Gary Wilson said:
“It was a good win in tough conditions. The wind was howling and whenever it’s so strong blowing in one way with a short boundary you’re never too sure what a good score is. The wicket in itself 132 would have been decent enough but with the short boundary that you can look to target, maybe it was a little under par. We came to get a win and do it as professionally as we could, so credit to the guys.”
On handing three players their Knights debut, he added:
“We do have strength in depth now. Some guys have missed out that are performing in the leagues so there is a real strength in depth there and that will hopefully only be good for Irish cricket going forward.”
This game marked the only one that Stirling will play as he now heads off to England for Vitality Twenty20 Blast duty with Northants but Wilson believes his side should carry confidence into the rest of their campaign:
“He looked like he was batting on another wicket to everybody else today. Porty played well too. He’s a quality player and that’s why he plays around the world in T20 leagues. Going into next week, we need to take confidence from what we did last year. It’s pretty much the same squad and we should have confidence going into the last five games.”
Head Coach Simon Johnston was understandably delighted to pick up a win in the first Inter-Provincial game of the season, saying:
“It was very difficult conditions. We have never seen anything like that so it’s credit to both teams. It wasn’t easy to bat or bowl. There were a few too many extras for us but it was exceptional circumstances out there. We are very pleased with how the guys did.”
Graeme McCarter was the star with the ball for the Knights, picking up two wickets, and Johnston was full of praise for the CSNI seamer:
“I’m telling everybody that will listen that Graeme is bowling as well in the past 12 months as I’ve seen him. I think he is back to the Gloucestershire days. He has got his zip back and his mojo back for it. He was exceptional but he has been for a while now. He led us with the ball which was brilliant to see.”
Ahead of next week’s double-header, Johnston will be looking for some slight improvements:
“I think we need to tighten up a bit on the extras. I can’t be too harsh on them because they haven’t played too much cricket. We are all still a little bit rusty so I won’t be harsh. Speaking at the end, and this will sound silly as a coach, but the way James McCollum, Harry Tector and Gary Wilson got out we aren’t complaining about because we back them to play those shots. I think 12 months ago they wouldn’t have done that so they will come off the more they play. It’s like every team in this competition – they need more games and I’m sure it’s the same for every side.”