It was once again Nigel Jones that led from the front for his side as CIYMS retained their LVS Twenty20 Cup crown with an 11-run victory over North Down at The Green on Sunday.
After winning the toss, CI got off to the worst possible start when in-form Chris Dougherty was bowled for 0 by Ruhan Pretorius (2-21) but that brought John Matchett (41 from 41) and Ireland international Mark Adair (23 from 19) together at the crease.
The pair put on 54 for the second wicket before Adair was caught off the bowling of Peter Davison (2-21), who also had Jason van der Merwe (16) caught by wicketkeeper Jamie Magowan.
That brought Jones, who has taken more of a backseat when it comes to batting this season, to the middle and he would go on to take his side up to what proved to be an unassailable total of 138 by smashing 43* from 26 deliveries (three fours, three sixes).
The 38-year-old will go down as one of the great all-rounders in the local game, winning most competitions on multiple occasions, and it was his breezy knock that gave CIYMS momentum heading into the second innings.
North Down started well with Aditya Adey (28) and Ruhan Pretorius (47*) putting on 59 for the first wicket before the former was caught on the boundary off the bowling of Jacob Mulder (3-31).
Pretorius struggled for rhythm throughout, scoring his runs from 57 balls, but continued to fight for his side, hitting two sixes and supporting the likes of Peter Eakin.
With the required runs per overs nearing 14, it was going to take something special to get North Down over the line and Eakin (26 from 15) was threatening to produce it.
In the 19th over, he hit Mulder for a four and six in consecutive balls but when he was caught by Jones going for another boundary, the game was all but done.
Adair, who was named Man of the Match, bowled the almost perfect final over to finish with figures of 1-9 from four overs and seal yet another trophy for CIYMS, adding to the four they won in 2019.
“We are delighted,” said Jones after the game.
“It was something that we talked about when cricket was coming back and that cup would be up for grabs.
“It’s always nice to have something to focus on and fair play to the boys for backing it up.
“Talking about it is one thing but to actually do it is fantastic.
“There has been a number of big performances and it hasn’t been down to one or two individuals. Different guys have stepped up when we really needed them to.
“We were confident and knew we were always going to have an opportunity with our bowling attack.
“We have eight or nine bowlers there and that gives me plenty of options and then it’s just about picking the right guy at the right time.”
With all of his experience and ability, Jones is still more than capable of producing the goods for seasons to come but says big occasions really help motivate him to produce his best.
“At my age now, I probably need games with that intensity to get me up for it.
“It helps me focus a bit more and it’s probably the nature of playing for as long as I have. I’m just happy I could contribute to another win for the team.”
Mulder has developed a reputation for himself as arguably the best T20 spinner in Ireland and he keeps putting in the performances that would be worthy of his recall to the international arena.
The 25-year-old tends to pop up and produce a little bit of magic or take a crucial wicket when his side need it, and that was again the case on Sunday as he broke the opening partnership, had North Down’s in-form player Alistair Shields caught and bowled and then dismissed the dangerous Eakin.
“As a leg-spinner that plays for the Knights and that has played for Ireland, you expect him to perform,” added Jones.
“His skills came through there and he handled the pressure well.”
It has been an incredible run of success for the Belmont outfit, winning five of the last six trophies that were available to them.
They have now qualified for another All-Ireland T20 Finals Day, giving them an opportunity to also defend that crown, and Jones believes the togetherness and consistency of their squad has played a major role in their accomplishments.
“I think if you go back three or four years, I was pretty keen to get a settled side when I took over the captaincy.
“We have done that and it was a big focus of mine to have the same guys playing every week.
“We have that core and it means a lot in these big games because you know what everyone is thinking and what they are going through. They are backing each other and that’s crucial.
“I’m really excited about that (All-Ireland).
“We will obviously be focused on winning that again and play some good cricket. The boys will be backing themselves going into that.”
Scorecard from the game: https://www.cricketeurope.com/LIVE/CHANNELS/2/live.shtml