MILLPARK travelled on Saturday to Shaw’s Bridge to face Cooke Collegians in optimistic mood following their narrow victory over Armagh the previous Saturday.
By the game’s end at 8pm, they had tied a match for the first time since the two day final of the Junior Cup in 1999. Only two members of the team from that famous match, Stevie McCart and Johnny Breen, were playing on Saturday, as the result again went down to the wire.
Batting first on an excellent wicket, Millpark got off to a brisk start. Opening pair Aaron Robb and Charlie McCrum made good progress on their way to a terrific opening stand of 79 runs from just 15 overs. Robb was eventually out for an enterprising knock of 35, during which he had played some good shots, but enjoyed a number of lives as Cooke’s catching let them down.
Darrell Martin then joined McCrum in the middle, and while the scoring rate slowed somewhat, progress was still being made. Martin was cruelly run out as he slipped, and was left tantalisingly short of his ground with the total on 109.
Stephen Leckey, Davy Glover and Stu McCart in turn all provided McCrum with support, helping him to steadily build the score.
McCrum himself eventually went through to an excellent, measured century. His teammates and opponents were generous in showing their appreciation of a typically professional, high quality performance. He was out shortly after reaching his landmark, caught for 102. His prolific start to the season now sees him on 177 runs after just two innings.
A flurry of wickets fell in the last few overs as the innings petered out a little, and Johnny Breen was left the not out batsman on 10, as the Millpark innings closed on 211-9. It was a good total which the team would have taken at the start, but in truth a little less than the Tullylish men would have been looking for after around 30 overs.
After the break, Millpark emerged in optimitic mood, with captain Jason Maxwell looking to his opening bowlers Stephen Leckey and Darrell Martin to strangle the start of the Cooke innings in much the same way as they had against Armagh the previous week.
Leckey got things off to an excellent start, taking the first wicket with only seven runs on the board.The second innings pair then played extremely well, taking the score up to 76 off just 19 overs. Opener Naidoo punished anything on the leg side, indeed reaching outside off stump to smite the ball away over the leg boundary on a number of occasions. His innings eventually ended on 67 - at least 60 of those runs had come through the leg side.
Millpark’s bowlers had all taken some punishment from Naidoo, and his partners Johnson (34) and Shekar (23). At 168-5, only 44 runs were required from 13 overs. Millpark’s bowling tightened, notably that of Glover (1-32), McCrum (2-43) and Martin (1-35) who same back to concede just 10 runs from his last 5 overs. Millpark were strangling the scoring rate, and looked favourites when Cooke needed 23 runs off the last three overs, with just two wickets remaining. Only four runs were scored from the 48th over, and then as the ninth wicket fell, the last pair needed 11 off the last over.
In scenes of high tension, the Cooke’s last man in hit 10 from the last over, including 6 from the last 2 balls to tie the match.
Millpark returned to the dressing room with mixed emotions - two points lost or two points gained? The general feeling among the Tullylish men was that after two tight matches, a return of one win and one tie is a good platform for the season.
Next week Millpark face Victoria at home in the first round of the Junior Cup, and then Saintfield away in the league on Sunday. The Second XI commence their league campaign on Saturday away to Woodvale Thirds.