Victoria suffered heartbreak at the weekend as they lost narrowly in the club’s first ever NCU Cup Final since their formation in 1954.
The Lurgan men entered the game as huge underdogs against a very fancied Drumaness Superkings side. However, Victoria defied expectations as they looked to have played themselves into a winning position in a highly entertaining spectacle for the large crowd who had gathered in Drumaness.
Drumaness Superkings won the toss and asked Victoria to bat on an overcast day and would have been happy with their choice as they took two early wickets in the third over, leaving Victoria at 12-2.
However, Andrew Gray began to swing the balance of the innings when David Gilpin joined him at the crease. Gray played shots all around the ground with apparent ease. A beautifully timed drive sailed over the head of long-off to bring up his 50.
A stand of 64 was brought to a close in the 13th over, before the brilliant Gray (60) departed in the next.
Bobi Babin and Joshua McClune came together with five overs to go with the score on 86-5, and the pair of all-rounders took the game to their hosts, adding 55 to the score as the ball flew to all boundaries off the bat of Babin (35), while McClune (14*) cleverly rotated strike and struck the bad ball to the rope.
Momentum was with Victoria as they finished on 141-7 and the travelling support provided an atmosphere worthy of a T20 final.
The Drumaness openers had been in great form a week previously during a dress rehearsal for today’s game, but the Victoria opening bowlers probed for an early breakthrough as a chance went down in the first over.
They were not to rue the missed opportunity, as Thomas Greenaway dismissed the dangerous James Cuningham soon after, courtesy of a Patrick McVey catch.
Victoria were made to work for the next breakthrough, although Drumaness were progressing just below the required rate thanks to some good ground fielding by Victoria.
The introduction of Babin and McClune began to turn the tide in Victoria’s favour. The introduction of Joshua McClune caused an immediate impact, removing the Drumaness opener. Babin’s miserly spell had seen the run-rate creep up and he capped this with a wicket, while McClune continued to torment the batsmen, picking up another - all three were caught by Jordan Walsh.
With seven overs to go Drumaness Superkings now required 9 runs an over and the pressure was starting to build on the men in the middle. A profitable over from Senthil, the Drumaness number 6, relieved some pressure before McClune picked up wicket number three with the best delivery of his spell, clipping the top of off.
The new batsmen to the crease decided to try and hit big and cleared the boundary on a couple of occasions. He was caught by Parks off the bowling of Vennard but Drumaness had regained the upper hand. There was still time for nerves to play a part, but the experienced Drumaness Superkings captain, Neil Gelston, was in the middle and led his team over the line.
A fantastic effort from the Victoria men looked as though it might have been enough to pull off a massive upset and reward their travelling support, but it wasn’t to be as Drumaness Superkings lifted the trophy.
The team and club can be very proud of what they achieved and the spectacle which they served up on the big stage. Andrew Gray was deservedly awarded the Man of the Match award in one of a number of stand out performances.
The previous evening Victoria 2nd XI made the trip to Sandy Bay, Larne where they were asked to field first.
Victoria made a good start with Sammy Irwin removing the two opening batsmen inside the first five overs. Josh McClune replaced Irwin, keeping the run rate tight and taking two wickets.
A good fielding and bowling performance saw Victoria restrict Larne to an under par 118-6 on a good batting pitch and lighting outfield.
Victoria’s batting innings got off to a bad start with a few loose shots and Victoria were 19-4 after five overs. Jamie Hanna and Joel Davidson started to rebuild, taking the score to 36-4 in the 11th over.
They then began to attack, finding the boundary regularly. Davidson (23) lost his wicket, leaving James McVey (20*) and Hanna (45*) to continue the attack.
Victoria left themselves needing 15 off the last over, and came up just short by five runs. A good fight back with the bat, but the bad start left the middle order too much to do in the end.
Pictures by Maynard Collins
Victoria 141-7 (A Gray 60, B Babin 35)
Drumaness Superkings 173-4 (J McClune 3-22)
Drumaness Superkings beat Victoria by 4 wickets and win the T20 Bowl Final
Larne II 118-7 (S Irwin 3-21, J McClune 2-21)
Victoria II 114-5 (J Hanna 45no, J McVey 20no)
Larne II beat Victoria II by 4 runs