Armagh CC travelled to Bangor for a game that would surely have crucial implications at both ends of the Gardiner Brothers NCU League Section One.
Armagh were two wins clear at the top after their memorable win against Woodvale while Bangor were struggling at second bottom in the table.
Bangor won the toss and elected to bowl first on a strangely soft wicket for their Upritchard Park home. Armagh openers Neil Gelston and Colin Russell began relatively well but both fell in quick succession with the score in the 20s.
Harry Doyle looked to rebuild with Jarred Barnes having to work hard with conditions favouring the bowlers.
Barnes was the more fluent of the two before Doyle was caught out with the partnership just short of 50. Armagh captain Matthew Steenson cane to the crease and immediately looked to attack, striking 6 boundaries before he was bowled by one that stayed low from home skipper Nixon.
Dangerman Barnes had struck 7 boundaries in his 38 before he was removed lbw to former North Down legend Taimur Khan with Bangor celebrating wildly and perhaps even over the top.
Last week’s hero Sam Wilson and debutant William Hazelton both fell cheaply and Armagh looked well below par at 131-7 but thankfully for Armagh Michael Hoey looked in fluent touch and was supported by Gareth McCarter in a useful stand for the 9th wicket.
Hoey had top-scored with 43 featuring 7 boundaries when he was bowled by the spinner.
Alan Whitcroft was perhaps harshly given lbw to Khan before last man Ben Mackey was able to smash a free hit to the boundary and Armagh could add a few more vital runs before McCarter was last man out as Armagh scored 179, a more than satisfactory effort in tough batting conditions.
Bangor were about to find out just how tricky the batting conditions were and in Jarred Barnes and Ben Mackey Armagh had the perfect pair of men to exploit them.
Barnes struck first when a superb off cutter bowled Burns in the very first over before his prolific opening partner Mark English also went without scoring when a Barnes bouncer was brilliantly caught behind by Armagh wicketkeeper McCarter.
The procession continued as the brilliant Barnes had far too much for the defences of McCollum and Parker. Bangor captain Nixon provided some limited resistance before being completely fooled by a superb slower ball that gave a fifth scalp to the tall South African.
Khan was doing his best to provide Bangor with some hope, surviving a tough chance to Hazelton off the bowling of Mackey but was receiving virtually no support as Gelston bowled out Mc- Cusker before Doyle claimed the wicket of Grossett caught behind.
Fraser was clean bowled by the hard-working Whitcroft attempting a slog before Khan was 9th out, caught smartly on the boundary by Doyle off the excellent spin bowling of Gelston.
With one wicket remaining, Steenson brought Barnes back into the attack and it only took him one ball to seal the Armagh win and a Gardiner Bros NCU award for a six wicket haul as Prince edged behind to the safe gloves of McCarter as Armagh celebrated a comprehensive 104 run win to remain in the driving seat in the Section 1 table.
Armagh vice-captain Harry Doyle was more than content with another solid all-round display from the team.
He said: “We had to dig-in with the bat because it wasn’t easy but getting to 180 was important.
Bangor did our team talk for us before we headed out to bowl and it wasn’t too smart of them to rile up big Barnes who was incredible.
“Our fielding and catching backed him up well enough. Our position is a strong one but the team just has to keep doing things right on the field and the table will look after itself.”
Next weekend Armagh host Donaghcloney Mill on the Mall with a 12noon start.
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