At the start of play on Saturday, hosts Millpark and visitors Cooke Collegians made up two of the five teams stuck together at the foot of Section 2. So, probably true to say that this was a proverbial 8 pointer (here being 4 points for a win).
Millpark welcomed new signing Neil Reilly, who has moved from Downpatrick. Reilly has already played well at Banford Green this season, having scored a fluent and powerful 44 against his new team in the Junior Cup.
Batting first, Millpark were hopeful that they would again be in the runs following their encouraging performance with the bat last weekend. By the time the seventh over had been completed, those hopes looked somewhat optimistic.
Openers Davy Glover and Stu McCart had gone for 7 runs apiece, while Reilly, batting at 3 was also disappointed, as he returned to the clubhouse without adding to the score.
With the score on 17, therefore, Millpark had slipped to 17 for 3.
Things changed, however, as Ben Talbot and Ryan MCart came to the crease. These are Millpark’s most naturally talented batsmen, and both have been compiling runs well this season, most notably when the latter scored his maiden century a few weeks ago.
He nearly repeated the feat on Saturday, but fell 12 short when eventually dismissed for an excellent 88 which contained a dozen boundaries. The two put on just shy of 200 runs, a fantastic effort, which will live long in the memory.
Talbot, however, was the star of the show. As has been written in these pages before, the Kiwi is clearly highly talented, but he has not always been rewarded with the scores that his style and skill deserve. The same could not be said on this occasion, as he played one of the finest innings witnessed at Banford Green for some years.
His magnificent innings of 144 (which included four 6s in one over) was only ended on the last ball of the 50 overs, as he aimed to clear the boundary for what would have been his seventh maximum. He left the field to a rousing ovation, and highly satisfied that he is now a member of the Millpark Centurions Club.
He will now surely believe that this is just the first of what his teammates know will be a significant number of big scores in the years to come.
Millpark’s total of 293 for 8 was an imposing one, and one that could almost entirely be attributed to McCart and Talbot.
It was surely all over bar the shouting, and so it turned out to be. Stu McCart and Davy Glover knocked the stuffing out of the top order, with 4-27 and 3-21 respectively. Jose (1-7), Reilly (1-0) and Paul McCart (1-1) accounted for the other wickets, while young Harry Lockhart bowled well for his 0-11 off 4 overs.
Cooke Collegians were dismissed for just 67, giving Millpark a victory margin of 226 runs.
The team will now hope to push on from their recent encouraging form, and make their way up the table.
In a season where Millpark have lost a number of important first team players, the spirit in the dressing room has been fantastic.
In addition, the flourishing of younger players such as Ryan McCart, Ben Talbot and Stu McCart has been timely, and testament to their maturing temperament and dedication to their club.
In addition, old hands like Davy Glover and Stevie McCart have guided their teammates, and the club has been very well marshalled on and off the pitch by 1st XI captain, Paul McCart.
This Saturday (July 5) sees Millpark take on Laurelvale in Ulster Bank League Section 2.
The local side will travel to Laurelvale, who currently lie one place above Millpark in the league table, but are level on points. Another tough fixture awaits, but following recent results Millpark will go there with confidence.