Northern Knights head coach Simon Johnston was full of praise for James McCollum after the batsman scored 79* from 53 balls in their eight-wicket victory over the North West Warriors on Tuesday.
Chasing 116 after Mark Adair collected figures of 4-14, Ireland international McCollum led the way, notching his highest career T20 score in the process as he shared partnerships of 53 with Harry Tector (22) and 62 with captain Gary Wilson (12*).
McCollum had started the season well with Waringstown, but this was on another level, striking nine fours and two sixes.
His innings, which included a number of creative and aggressive strokes, was a reminder of how much his game has progressed in white ball cricket and Johnston knew a performance like this was just around the corner.
“He had a bit of a rough time being left out in England,” he said.
“He has worked so hard for 18 months on his white ball game and has done everything asked of him.
“He has gone even further in the last six months and you won’t see anyone work harder.
“When someone tells him he can’t do something or needs to work on something, he does it and that was testament to him.
“That has been the way he has been playing for two weeks in the nets and he just needed a chance to showcase it.
“He has taken his white ball game to a new level today so it was brilliant to watch.”
It was the Knights second victory over the Warriors in the space of 12 days, leaving them second in the Trophy standings and trailing Leinster Lightning by just three points.
The tone was set in the field and with the Warriors sitting on 90/3 in the 15th over, they were able to peg them back to 115 all out off the final ball of the innings.
Graeme McCarter (2-13), Jacob Mulder (1-28) and David Delany (1-20) were also in the wickets and Johnston was delighted with their efforts in the field.
“That was brilliant from start to finish.
“We really set the tone with the ball and in the field.
“That was as good as I’ve seen us in a while. I remember saying a couple of weeks ago that we looked rusty but we got rid of all of that today.
“I can’t say enough about Graeme McCarter, and Mark Adair was as impressive as you’ll see with the skills, knowledge and ability to get out of situations and then just dominate when he needs to.
“David Delany bowled three very quick overs in the middle and got them jumping a bit and put them on the back foot.”
They go into Thursday’s game with Leinster knowing that they must win in order to keep their hopes of retaining the title alive.
Leinster are also unbeaten after winning twice against Munster Reds and the Knights have been dealt a blow with the unavailability of McCarter.
That means Lisburn bowler Josh Manley is set to make his first Inter-Provincial appearance of the season and Johnston is excited for their trip to Sydney Parade, home of Pembroke CC.
“Grum is a big loss but hopefully someone can step up.
“The squad is a bit stronger this year. We are really excited for it and to see what happens.”