Eaton Park, 29th July 2017
The 3rd XI resumed league action after a break of three weeks with a tense 5-run victory over Carrickfergus in a high-scoring thriller at Eaton Park.
The home skipper won the toss and elected to bat first on a soft wicket, with the threat of rain never far away. Despite the slow pitch, the openers, skipper Crease and Stewart Watt, made a good start putting on 63 runs in 10 overs before Watt fell for 33, quickly followed by Crease for 31. Jack Archer then joined Josh Drain in the middle and the pair put on a further 68 runs in a third wicket stand dominated by some fluent batting from Jack Archer who scored 44 runs from 41 balls before being caught behind. Drain remained the pillar of the innings seeing out the 30 overs to finish 29 not out. The other batsmen all contributed to the total, including debutant Kamran Khan who marked his arrival with a six and four from his first two balls. The Ballymena innings closed on a competitive 185 for the loss of 6 wickets.
In reply, Carrickfergus scored at a similar rate to Ballymena, and it was clear from early on that this was going to be a close run affair. Adam Pogue took the first wicket, but it was the introduction of debutant Ghazanfar Ali that started to rein in the visitor’s progress, taking a wicket in his first over and then going on to bowl a very effective spell, ending with figures of 4-24 from his six overs. Pogue returned to bowl the dangerous Luney and the stage was set for a grandstand finish with Carrick needing 62 to win from the last 10 overs. The final overs were bowled by Kamran Khan and Jack Archer and the pair were able to keep a check on the Carrick score to the point where 21 runs were needed from the final three overs. At this point Archer bowled a superb controlled over, pinning back the hitherto free-scoring Murdock, conceding only a single run to leave the visitors needing 20 runs from 12 balls. With 9 runs coming from the penultimate over by Khan,the game was on a knife-edge but Archer was able to see the game through, conceding just 5 runs from his final over and taking the wicket of Murdock in the process, to finish with figures of 1-18 from his four overs and a 5 run victory for the Eaton Park side
The game featured some superb performances, with that of Archer to the fore and the debut performances from Khan and Ali bode well for the rest of the season The result is hugely significant in terms of league position, lifting Ballymena to 5th place in the league and hoping to push on next week with a home game against a very difficult Muckamore 4th XI in what is surely the most competitive league in the NCU.