Maghera 2nd XI had been eagerly anticipating their first home match all week, hoping for favourable weather. Indeed, up until a few hours beforehand, no sandwiches were prepared, as the morning threatened and created gloom and doubt. However, with the clouds lifting and prospect of rain receding, Bready 4th XI were welcomed at the Rainey by warm sunshine and broad smiles.
Following the successful chase in Killyclooney the previous week, and with captain Phil McClay winning the toss, Bready were asked to bat. In the absence of the wicket-keepers from the previous game, David Jones took the gloves for the first half of the innings, not having kept wicket for some considerable time, and Maghera again opened with Sharma and McClay. In the first ball of the second over, and with a litheness which belied his silver hair, McClay rolled back the years to dismiss the Bready opener, Killen, with a magnificent caught & bowled. This brought young Sam Loughlin to the crease, and what he lacked in height he more than made up for with grit, determination, a sound defence and the odd well timed aggressive shot. While he defended like a baby Boycott at one end, the other opener, Kee, mixed defence with aggression at the other. Their fifty partnership was reached in the tenth over, and wasn’t broken until the twelfth over, Irvine Snr bowling Kee for 32. The new batsman, T. Hamilton, was keen to move the score along, and he began to open his shoulders. Marshall Snr managed to finally sneak past the edge in the thirtieth over to bowl Loughlin for a resolute thirteen, but McMorris then continued in a similar vein, defending resolutely while Hamilton did the bulk of the scoring. Jones swapped the gloves with Brett Marshall at drinks, for his first ever wicket-keeping spell in a match. The introduction of the spinner, Alleyne, in the twenty-first over soon started to produce chances in the field, the first of which saw Kee dropped by Evans, running it to take what should have been a fairly straightforward catch. However, the very next ball, Hamilton managed to hit the ball towards the same fielder, who this time took a more difficult chance, much to the relief of the fielding team! Alleyne then cheaply dismissed two more of the Bready batsmen, one caught & bowled to a good running catch, and the other caught by Sharma. Allen had time to hit a couple of sixes to push the score along, although only narrowly avoiding being stumped three times in a row after excellent work by Marshall Jnr behind the stumps. The innings concluded with McMorris finishing not out 32, not having hit a boundary in his important knock.
Sharma opened the batting for Maghera, this time joined by McClay, moving up one spot in the order from the week before, due to the previous opener getting a call-up into the first XI. While McClay knocked the ball around to get the scoring under way, Sharma was finding progress difficult at the other end. However, the score moved serenely along to 32 in the seventh over, until McClay was caught off Faulkner for 13. Sam Loughlin, fresh from his batting exploits, was brought into the attack and promptly took a wicket, surprising and bowling Alleyne for 2. Marshall Snr looked to impose himself on the opposition, but Sharma fell for a laboured 3, again off Loughlin. This brought Irvine Snr to the crease, who mixed some powerful shots with working the ball for singles. With two power hitters at the crease, and a partnership starting to develop, Maghera were looking comfortable, but that all changed with the fall of Marshall Snr - yet again to the wiles of Sam Loughlin. Two more quick wickets followed, one to T. Hamilton and another to young Loughlin, who only narrowly missed taking a five-wicket haul. At 76 for 6, Bently limped to the crease, reminiscent of Steve Waugh at the Oval in 2001, having suffered a bad strain early in the match when fielding. Unable to run, and so limited to hobbling singles, the focus was on boundaries, and Irvine and Bently combined to hit a 50 partnership, which included some enormous sixes. At 128/6 in the twentieth over, the match was in the balance, but the introduction of the experienced Allen into the attack proved the undoing of Irvine, who tried one shot too many and was bowled for a marvellous 56, off only 24 balls. Bently and Talbot then tried hard to keep up with the scoring rate, but the re-introduction of T. Hamilton, in combination with Allen, although not taking any further wickets, made it very difficult to score quickly, the Bready 4th XI finishing as the worthy winners by 13 runs.
Although disappointed, Maghera were encouraged by their performance, having batted their full 30 overs and only falling short by a small margin. Even more encouraging were the performances by the young players on both sides, all making good contributions and enjoying their day. Indeed, those who watched them are perhaps seeing glimpses of the future of North West cricket and, just perhaps, beyond.
Written By Tim Evans