The opening day of the 2017 NCU cricket Section one season saw Armagh make the imposing trip to Queensway in Lisburn to face a Derriaghy side who impressed last season despite their relegation from the Premier League.
Armagh knew this would be a difficult match given the quality of the opponent and the NCU registration farce that meant Kamtekar was unable to play. A chilly day at Queensway began with the toss, with Derriaghy winning it and somewhat surprisingly electing to bowl.
Neil Gelston and Jamie Rodgers began the innings steadily for Armagh, regularly punishing the bad ball to the boundary, Gelston and Rodgers got to their 50 partnership and looked set as the two pushed on.
With the score at 78 Rodgers fell to a questionable LBW decision for a excellent score of 47. This brought new recruit Samuel Wilson to the crease and Gelston and Wilson pushed on.
Gelston brought up his 50 and both batsmen pushed on playing some wonderful shots. As Wilson got to 20 his attemted sweep shot slipped through the gap and he was bowled.
This brought Colin Russell to the crease with Gelston who was now pushing into the 80’s and looking increasingly fluent. Loose balls were being smashed all around Queensway by Russell and Gelston with some huge sixes, The former fell for 19 when he was caught on the boundary which brought Armagh Captain Matthew Steenson to the crease.
Soon after the skipper had joined Gelston at the crease he reached a wonderful 100, his first for Armagh just before the team 200 was brought up in the 43rd over. With wickets in hand the Armagh batsmen began to go ballistic with Steenson smashing sixes all around Queensway and Gelston steadily adding to his ton.
Armagh finished their innings 279-3 with Gelston finishing on 140 not out and Steenson 36 not out. Neil Gelstons innings contained 15 boundaries and 5 big sixes and was a special effort to bat undefeated through the entire 50 overs.
This looked to be a good score however Armagh understood that only half the work was done with the small nature of the ground making defending quite difficult.
Derriaghy began their innings extremely aggressively with Sam Wilson and the youngster Ben Mackey opening the bowling. In Mackeys first over the Derriaghy batsman pushed the ball up into the safe hands of Robin Sinton at mid-on much to Armagh’s delight.
In the next over Wilson wasn’t to be out done as he dismissed the other opener who smashed straight to Russell at cover who juggled but held on for a great catch.
This wicket brought Captain Craig Lewis to the crease for Derriaghy who plays for the Northern Knights, Armagh knew that if they could get him they had a real chance, Wilson again came storming in and the batsman edged to first slip into the safe hands of Geslton.
With Lewis on 32 and having smashed Armagh’s opening bowlers around Queesnway, Mackey bounded in and dismissed him attempting one slog too many as he edged back to wicketkeeper Gareth McCarter.
With Derriaghy on 112-4 after only 14 overs, Gelston and Steenson began to bowl to try and tighten things up. Gelston was bowling his usual tight lines and Steenson the same, both began to restrict the run rate.
Steenson was to dismiss the next Derriaghy man Bell who again edged behind to McCarter who took a good catch up at the stumps. This brought drinks and Armagh knew that the game was not over as Derriaghy only needed 120 runs off the remaining 25 overs.
Michael Hoey was then brought on, and the off spinner immediately took a wicket trapping former Armagh player Mark Stinson leg before wicket. Armaghs work in the field was generally excellent with Andy Hoey in particular impressive, stopping everything that came at him on the boundary.
The Derriaghy batsman Andrew Kenny was unbeaten on 87 and was looking to finish the game for his side but Wilson had different ideas as he fired in a delivery to the batsman who looked to go big only to chip it into the safe hands of Colin Russell at cover.
Michael Hoey and Steenson shared further scalps leaving the away side on the verge of a famous success.
One wicket remained and Derriaghy needed 35 runs, Mackey had been brought back to bowl and the Derriaghy tail enders in a moment of confusion both ended up at the strikers end, much to the delight of the young bowler who showed experience beyond his years to simply take the bails off and recorded an excellent win and a great start to the season.
Armagh captain Matthew Steenson was understandably delighted with a terrific win.
“I’m sure not many people gave us much of a chance coming up here against a strong team but we have a plenty of quality in our own side even if we are missing players,” said Steenson.
“Everyone knows the lead up to the season hasn’t been ideal but it just means that the rest of us have to step up. We seriously did that today. Delighted for Neil Gelston in particular but everyone can be proud of themselves this weekend.”
Next weekend the 1st XI host Academy in a league fixture on the Mall with a 1pm start.
Armagh 279-3. Gelston 140* Rogers 47 Steenson 36*
Derriaghy 244 all out. Kenny 87. Wilson 3-60
Armagh win by 35 runs.