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Agonising Defeat For NIACUS As White Stick Trophy Returns South

Michael Foster

The NIACUS (Northern Ireland Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers) side which had reclaimed the White Stick trophy last season had to hand it straight back to their colleagues from Leinster after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in an exciting encounter at Comber on Saturday 26th September. In a game that ebbed and flowed, NIACUS came up just 2 runs short in a game they really should have won.

Leinster won the toss – apparently a tail looks like a head in parts of Dublin! – and elected to bat first on a fine, sunny, September day that would have put many a Saturday earlier in the season to shame. And they got off to a cracking start as their opening pair rattled off a very quick 50 partnership, Vinu in particular flaying the bowling to all parts. Only when Bruce Topping entered the fray did NIACUS get a much needed breakthrough, but at 71/1 off 12 overs, an imposing total looked likely.

However, the game was turned on its head in the ensuing half hour, as no less than 6 Leinster wickets fell for just 14 runs. Topping with 3 (including the prize scalp of nemesis Samir Dutt for 0, spectacularly grabbed behind the wicket by the demure Dessie Milne) and the skipper Michael Foster with 2 and a rare run out left Leinster teetering on the brink at 85/7. But they showed great resolve and their number 9 batsman in particular did very well in the last 10 overs of the game, and he along with gritty support, and some indisciplined home bowling, took his side to a competitive 153/8 in their 30 overs. Foster (3-12) and Topping (3-15) were given good support by Billy Adams (1-21) and the luckless Adam Gardner. We won't mention Gusher Blair's "spell", the big man a little rusty perhaps with his normally effective left arm seam. Maybe over-celebrating his landslide Fantasy League success?

Anyway, after the interval, NIACUS set about chasing down the gettable total and despite losing Neale Matthews early on, were well placed to do exactly that as the scoreboard reached 71/1 off 14 overs, in an almost mirror image of the Leinster effort. The fluent Jonny Kennedy (31) was then perhaps slightly unlucky to pick out Samir on the deep mid wicket boundary and he was followed back to the hut the very next ball by Gusher, whose ease of Fantasy League success was now matched by his collection of the "TFC". When Ronnie Balfour followed soon after for a well made 25, NIACUS' mini collapse had allowed Leinster a sniff of a win.

However, Bruce Topping and Billy Adams restored some order to things with a decent stand and although Bruce (22) was torpedoed by a ball that kept very low, Billy looked like he had things to hand and with less than 30 required and 5 wickets and 6 overs left, NIACUS' WASP was very much past the 50% mark. Then Billy (21) – again a tad unluckily – picked out the safe hands of Samir, and when Adam Gardner was bowled soon after, it was game back on again. The skipper Foster, in his keenness to get on strike, saw a single that maybe wasn't there and got to see the rear end of Andrew McCullough instead and his run out left Leinster favourites for the first time in the innings. Brian Boyd and McCullough valiantly tried to get the team over the line but Leinster bowled tightly in the last couple of overs, and a frustrated Dessie Milne, who felt that it was his destiny to get in to hit the winning runs, was left on the sidelines as the last over saw NIACUS fall short by just 2 runs.

Hats off to the Leinster side who didn't give up and kept their discipline right to the end, but NIACUS will look back on this match as a missed opportunity in the annual battle with the boys from over the border. 22 wides didn't help, but this is probably to be expected, given many of the team do not play much, or indeed any, cricket during the season. That said, it was an enjoyable day when old friendships were renewed and new ones made. A fine meal was had in the Comber clubhouse and the players enjoyed the hospitality for several hours after the game. Vinu was named MOM, and Dessie (no, I hear you cry) won the bottle of Champagne for his catch. This was shared with the opposition along with a number of Red Bulls (Champbulls, by all accounts) and as Dessie attempted to get into the caterer's car as they were leaving, one can only assume they had the desired effect!

Another good day's craic and sport. Thanks to North Down CC, the caterers, the umpires Joe Moore and Phil Thompson, and scorer Peter Searson. We look forward to 2016 and a chance for revenge.