Cork County clinched their first Leinster Division 2 title following a dramatic afternoon of action both at the Mardyke and in Rathmines. The standings prior to the final round of games saw Leinster in first position on 222.5 points while County were not too far behind on 218 points. A win for Cork County against Balbriggan at the Mardyke would at least confirm a promotion playoff place against the second bottom team in Division 1 and depending on the result of the Leinster v Terenure fixture, could even clinch the title!
Balbriggan also had their eyes firmly on a promotion playoff place and so the final fixture at the Mardyke would prove pivotal to both teams. Winning the toss, Cork County skipper Stephan Grobler had no hesitation putting the visitors in to bat following a delayed start due to the wet ground conditions.
The 32 over a side game got off to a flyer with Balbriggan openers, Warsop and Ahmed, taking the attack to the County bowlers at almost a run a ball. After the dismissal of Warsop, overseas professional Farrukh continued the frantic pace with some fiercely struck cut shots off the bowling of Morne Bauer.
Once Junaid Amin took the prized wicket of Farrukh (30) which left Balbriggan on 98-4, the Cork County attack continued to take wickets at regular intervals to reduce the visitors to 135 all out. The spin twins of Abubakar Saddique (3-26) and Stephan Grobler (3-13) inflicting most of the damage to the Balbriggan middle and lower order.
In response, Cork County lost their skipper Grobler (11) with the score on 22 and he was soon followed by the in-form Bauer to LBW for just 2. Hassett joined Ross Durity at the crease and the two went about rebuilding the innings putting on 45 for the third wicket before Hassett fell victim to a sharp short pitched delivery from Nulty.
Duggan and Durity continued the rebuilding job and looked to be guiding the home side to within touching distance of the 136 required to win with both batsmen scoring reasonably freely. While looking to cut a short of length delivery from Nulty, Duggan directed it a little finer than he hoped and found the safe hands of Paddy Martin in the slips leaving County on 93-4.
With plenty of batting to come, it was hoped that the remaining 43 runs shouldn’t prove too difficult but a mini collapse by the lower middle order caused much anxiety in the crowd with Mubeen Ali (5), Abubakar Saddique (4) and Aidan Kelleher (1) all falling cheaply to leave the home side on 119-7 and still requiring another 19 runs to win and overs to go rapidly disappearing.
After reaching an excellent half century despite the fall of wickets at the other end, Durity (51) was caught and bowled by Farrukh while looking to take the attack to the spinner which left County needing 8 to win with two wickets remaining. The clam heads of Tim Clifford and Junaid Amin saw County home to a nail biting 2 wicket win with just 5 balls remaining and confirm their place in the promotion playoff.
However, the drama wasn’t done just yet! Leinster and Terenure were still scraping it out in Rathmines with Terenure closing in on the target of 136 to win (ironically the same as what Cork County had to chase). The final over saw Terenure requiring 10 to win – in the event they managed 9 and a tie which denied Leinster the crown.
Leinster will now play-off for promotion against either Railway Union or Merrion for the Division One slot, while Cork County are automatically promoted as Leinster Division 2 CHAMPIONS!!!
Leinster Division 2:
Cork County 136-8 (Durity 51, K Bilal 3-37, Nulty 3-27) beat Balbriggan 135 all out (Mehdi 33, Farrukh 30, Grobler 3-13, Saddique 3-26) by 2 wickets at the Mardyke. scorecard
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