On a beautiful day on the Mall on Saturday Armagh played Academy in their second Section One fixture.
Armagh captain Matthew Steenson won the toss and unsurprisingly elected to bat first in glorious conditions.
This was a special day for the home team as Alan Whitcroft returned to the side in his first appearance since 2010 and also the return of diminutive all-rounder Harry Doyle strengthened the team significantly. Armagh were looking for another win and to follow on from last weeks stunning success against Derriaghy.
With the sun shining Armagh’s opening batsmen strode out to a great wicket looking to put a commanding total on the board. Armagh openers Neil Gelston and Jamie Rogers were looking to put a big score on and began quickly with Gelston smashing the second delivery to the boundary.
As the openers pushed on, bringing up their 50 run partnership, Sadly Gelston’s innings finished on 32 as he pushed an attempted big drive into the hands of mid-off who took a good catch.
This brought Sam Wilson to the crease but he departed shortly after as he edged behind and when Rogers was trapped lbw to Halliday with the score at 64-3 Armagh had somewhat let an excellent position slip. Captain Matthew Steenson began a partnership with Colin Russell looking to rebuild but also to push on and did so bringing the score up to 170, in the process Steenson bringing up a wonderful half century and Russell playing some great shots. Soon after the drinks break Russell was bowled by Beard for 36 and Steenson followed shortly being caught after having made a great score of 64.
The Hoey brothers, Michael and Andy came together after Harry Doyle was dismissed without scoring but the former was bowled attempting a big shot. With the score at 178 the home team were in danger of finishing with a below par score but their wicket keeper Gareth McCarter came to the crease and supported Andy Hoey as the young batsman continued to attack, hitting some lovely fours and smashing a huge six. Hoey departed for a very well made 42 which was his highest senior score while McCarter finished with 13 not out when he ran out of batting partners. Armagh finished their innings on a score of 248 but knew that they would need to bowl and field well to ensure they got the win.
Armagh came out after teas and with the very first ball of the innings Ben Mackey trapped the Academy opening batsmen LBW, much to Armagh’s delight. Armagh let Academy take charge with some loose bowling in the next few overs but the score at 48-1 Mackey removed the dangerous South African Parry as he edged down the leg side into the gloves of McCarter.
Harry Doyle then removed Greenless by smashing his off stump. Captain Matthew Steenson saw that the wicket may be more suited to spinners and medium pace bowlers so changed it up with Gelston and himself brought on. Gelston bowling his usual tight lines and Steenson the same. In Steenson’s first over he dismissed Magee with a great delivery which smashed the stumps. Alan Whitcroft was then brought on, and after several years of no cricket looked like he’d never been away. In just his second over he trapped Academy’s Reid plum LBW and celebrated wildly. In his next over the Academy batsman Beard from New Zealand was tempted to come down the crease and try to find the boundary only to completely miss the ball and McCarter quickly stumped him.
With the score sitting at 111-7 and in Whitcroft’s third over the latest Academy batsman chipped straight into the safe hands of Gelston at cover. Whitcroft was on fire and in just his fourth over trapped Halliday LBW, he only needed one more wicket for his five, and in his sixth over this was achieved as he clean bowled Magee and took off in his trademark wild celebrations. With Armagh needing only one wicket to win and Academy needing 94 runs, Neil Gelston finished the innings off as he clean bowled Muhammed who had struck a few nice fours in a defiant effort.
Armagh captain Matthew Steenson was understandably delighted to seal another league win.
“Our record against Academy hasn’t always been great but this was a pretty comprehensive win,” said Steenson.
“Even with a few failures we showed a bit of depth to our batting with Andrew Hoey deserving special credit for his high score.
“We showed character in the field after an average start and won well in the end. Everyone is delighted to have Alan Whitcroft back and what an asset he could be for us on this sort of form.
“We know we face two tough cup fixtures this weekend and our focus is undoubtedly on the league but we will see what happens.”
Armagh would like to thank their ball sponsors for the opening two fixtures, Mr John Doyle v Derriaghy and Mr James George v Academy. Their support is appreciated.