Moylena, 10th June 2017
Ballymena 3rd XI bounced back from last week’s cup exit to beat the same Muckamore side in a Junior League 5 fixture in Antrim.
Winning the toss, the Ballymena skipper elected to field first in the hope of restricting the home side to a manageable total. Against a strong batting line up, the Ballymena opening bowlers, O’Boyle and Bell, largely kept the runs in check, and when Bell struck twice in one over to leave the home side at 25-2 after 6 overs, the visitors appeared to be in the ascendancy. The home side, however, dug in and some looser bowling saw the runs begin to accumulate quickly with the next wicket not falling until the score reached 82. This changed with the bowling partnership of the experienced Tranter and the youthful Drain who bowled with excellent control to both restrict the runs and take vital wickets. Tranter finished with 3 wickets but could easily have had 5 if catches had been taken and while Drain finished with just one wicket, he restricted the home side to only 17 runs from his 6 overs. The young supporting bowlers Henry and Wilkins performed admirably and the home side finished with a challenging but achievable 164 from their 30 overs.
In reply, Ballymena started slowly, with only wides keeping the scoreboard moving, and when Crease and Henry fell cheaply the 3s found themselves two wickets down for only 8 runs. But really the visitors’ innings was all about Jeff Martin. From the moment he arrived at the crease, he appeared fluent and in control and the runs began to flow. With good support from young Paddy Browne and Josh Drain the 3rds brought themselves back into contention, but with 90 runs required from the last 10 overs, the task was considerable. Martin increased the tempo at just the right time and with 20 runs coming from the 21st over, the stage was set for a grandstand finish. Ably supported by newcomer Romeo Tanna, hitting vital runs at a rapid rate, the Ballymena side closed in on the target and hit the winning runs from the first ball of the last over, with Martin finishing on an impressive 87 not out and Romeo 25 not out.
This was an important win against one of the favourites to win the league and a similar performance will be required next week if the 3s are to succeed against a strong Armagh 3rd XI.