CSNI picked up their first Robinson Services Cup victory of the season with a five-run triumph over Instonians on Saturday in a game where the winning margin doesn’t begin to tell the story of the match.
Having won the toss and elected to bat on home turf, CSNI mustered just 88/8 from their 20 overs with Corin Goodall (25*) and Ross Adair (21) the only men that made it beyond 10.
In reply, Instonians fell five runs short of their target despite the best efforts of captain Andrew White (23) and Ben Rose (33), who put on a partnership of 46 for the sixth wicket.
The difficulty of batting on the Stormont deck is clear to see when looking at the strike rates, with all of the major contributors apart from Adair going at under a run per ball.
There were only 10 boundaries across the two innings as well, but CSNI captain James Kennedy was just happy to come out on the winning side.
“It was a strange game all round,” he said.
“It was certainly a bowler’s day as opposed to a batsman’s day, but any team I’ve been involved with doesn’t give up right until the end.
“I know that’s a bit of a cliché but we knew that it was going to be tough in the second innings and that we would fight for as long as we were out there and see if we could just keep chipping away at the wickets.
“Sure enough we did and we bowled well, fielded with good intensity and got over the line in what was a low-scoring thriller.
“Both sides could look at themselves and say they could have done better with the bat but we were pleased to get over the line and get off the mark.”
No team can be filled with confidence going out to defend a total of 88, but Kennedy knew the difficulties of scoring runs on the pitch and felt his side would be in it if they were able to pick up some early wickets.
Ross Adair (3-11) did just that by bowling Olly Metcalfe and Marcus Poskitt before Ben Adair (3-15) took the crucial wickets of Nikolai Smith, James Hunter and White in the middle order.
“I don’t think anyone ever feels confident going in to defend 88 but we knew the wicket was sticky and if we made a couple of early breakthroughs, they might show some signs of nerves,” added Kennedy.
“Our boys bowled and fielded well, so all credit to them and we are just happy to get the four points.”
Goodall walked to the crease with the score sitting at 42/5, but it was his contribution that pushed CSNI up to what proved to be a winning total.
“A few people who batted for a few overs for both teams said that it did get easier the longer you were in,” said Kennedy.
“Rad glued that together for us and got us up to what proved to be a competitive score in the end.”
CSNI followed that narrow victory up with a seven-wicket LVS Twenty20 Cup first round defeat against Waringstown on Sunday.
They were without Kennedy, Goodall and Marc Ellison for their trip to The Lawn while Gary Wilson and Stuart Thompson remain in Southampton on Ireland duty.
Phil Eaglestone’s spell of 5-16 limited CSNI to 118 all out before the Villagers chased the total down with two overs to spare, but Kennedy was happy to hand some of the younger generation, such as Harry Dyer and Mohammad Aahil, an opportunity.
“We were missing five first team regulars on Sunday, although Gary and Thommo have been away in England so haven’t been available for a few weeks,” he said.
“We made a conscious decision that we were going to give the younger lads a go.
“They mightn’t get much to do in the game but we thought it would be a good experience for some of the guys who have come up through the club’s youth programme and the experience they would have gleaned from Sunday and games last September will stand them in good stead.
“By all reports I heard they did extremely well so that’s very pleasing.”
Matty Foster returned figures of 3-16 from his four overs, picking up the wickets of Adam Dennison, James Hall and former team-mate Morgan Topping.
“Matty is bowling really well,” added Kennedy.
“He’s hitting good areas and causing the batsmen problems. The big man has worked hard over the winter in Cardiff in the university set-up and seems to be getting better every year, so I’m delighted for him.”
CSNI will host Lisburn, who have lost their first two Robinson Services Cup games against Woodvale and CIYMS, on Saturday.
With the nature of Twenty20 cricket, Kennedy is expecting the season to be packed with tough games but will be looking for a better batting performance.
“It’ll be another tricky game against Lisburn,” he said.
“That’s the thing about T20 – it’s very difficult to get on a winning streak because one or two bad overs in a T20 can change the game dramatically.
“Three of the four games went down to the final over on Saturday and you could put a piece of paper between all the teams because the shortened games make for more exciting games and results.
“Hopefully we can carry that into Saturday and maybe bat a bit better to get a higher score on the board.”