LAST weekend’s games against Academy and Cooke Collegians were both 20 over affairs.
The Tullylish men went into the weekend knowing that two wins would keep them right in the mix for promotion.
The Saturday game away to Academy did not start well. Batting first, Millpark slumped to 12-3 after four overs.
A start like this in 20 over games is often irretrievable, but Davy Glover and Ben Talbot began the rebuilding process, taking the score to 37 before the latter was out for 15. Skipper Jason Maxwell had an off day with the bat, bowled for no score, before Glover was joined by Paul McCart.
The pair were in the end responsible for the lion’s share of Millpark’s total of 93-7. Glover was out for an excellent 32, while McCart carried his bat for 25. They had given Millpark a chance.
That chance quickly began to get slimmer. Despite taking an early wicket, Academy were soon in control as their second wicket put on 57 runs before Dave Maxwell took the wicket of the destructive David Greenlees.
Unfortunately it was too little too late. Academy coasted home with more than an over to spare, winning by seven wickets.
Sunday’s game saw Millpark travelling to Shaw’s Bridge to take on fellow promotion seekers Cooke Collegians.
Once again Millpark batted first, and once again they got off to a poor start. Paul McCart, who himself would later keep a tidy wicket for Millpark, was stumped for a duck in bizarre circumstances - the keeper throwing down the stumps as McCart practised his strokeplay out of his crease.
Watch out for that one on Question of Sport’s ‘What Happened Next?’
Davy Glover (5), Steven Leckey (7) and Charlie McCrum (17) all got started, but could not really push on. The man who changed the match was New Zealander Ben Talbot.
Talbot has had a frustrating season. His year started slowly, gradually improving as the games have passed. Ben can be a fluent player, especially off the front foot, and here he played a classy knock when his team really needed it.
Joined at the crease by Johnny Breen (14), Talbot drove the ball beautifully as he batted through to the end of the innings for an invaluable 47 not out. Millpark had recovered to a competitive 108 for 7 from their allotted 20 overs.
Although Millpark had recovered from their bad start, Cooke Collegians went into their innings surely believing that the match was there for the taking.
They had not reckoned with what turned out to be one of Millpark’s tightest bowling and fielding performances of the year.
Opening with the slight slope and breeze to help him, Steven Leckey generated genuine pace. He immediately had the Cooke Collegian batsmen on the back foot, and took a wicket in each of his first two overs, while Davy Glover at the other end bowled with his usual guile and control.
Leckey finished with 2-13 from his four overs, Glover 2-15. James Wright (0-15) and Charlie McCrum (2-18) kept the pressure on as Cooke Collegians were reduced to 39-6.
The Belfast team rallied slightly, without ever threatening to win the game, and it was left to evergreen Ian McCart (2-4) and skipper Jason Maxwell (1-6) to finish things off.
Rarely described as shy, although surely not many years from retiring, McCart bowls with unerring accuracy, claiming not to know what a ‘wide’ is. He certainly knows how to bowl wicket to wicket, and confirmed this by clean bowling his two victims.
Millpark finished worthy winners by a comfortable 37 runs.
Next weekend sees the season come to a close with two games, against Drumaness and Laurelvale. They will be hoping to finish what has been a positive, although damp, season on a high.