In a sensational finish to three days of close, competitive Championship cricket, John Anderson’s perfectly paced 123 not out took the Lightning to a 5 wicket win with just 12 balls to spare.
It all seemed so far away when the overnight rain had delayed the start of Day 3 by an hour. Even when play did get underway at 12pm, the bowlers’ run ups weren’t completely dry, and the outfield saw Jack Tector take a 10-foot slide while fielding at the boundary edge.
Lightning Coach Albert van der Merwe said after the game, “I was surprised at how wet it was but it’s a quick drying ground and fair play to the ground-staff who worked hard over the three days to get the place in prime condition”.
Opening at 83/1 James McCollum and Chris Dougherty were determined to score, and do so quickly. The former went to his second half-century of the match (8x4s) early on Day 3. The Lightning did break the partnership but not before they put on 101 together. The wicket when it arrived came via a Peter Chase delivery and a good catch by sub-fielder Stephen Doheny at deep square leg.
James Shannon pressed on with increasing the run rate when he put on 89 runs in 14 overs with McCollum.
It was Simi Singh that broke the partnership taking a sharp return catch to dismiss McCollum for 84. I was his second dismissal in the 80’s of the match but his extra work with the red ball last week, certainly paid off.
That wicket took us to Lunch on Day 3 with the Knights 198/3 and with a lead of 193 runs.
Shannon took just 45 deliveries to get to his 50, which included four boundaries and one maximum that nearly found the road on his leg side but in just the fifth over after the break Singh trapped Shannon (66) LBW.
When Harry Tector (22) became Singh’s third victim, the Knights were 241/5 and beginning to consider the declaration.
This didn’t come before an entertaining cameo from Neil Rock (22*), as he drove well but also played an audacious reverse flick to fine leg for 4 off pace bowling.
At the end of the 62nd over Shane Getkate (13*) gave the nod to George Dockrell and the declaration came. The Knights were 272/5 and set the Lightning a victory target of 268 in 61 overs.
The Lightning pair of Jack Tector and John Anderson strode to the middle knowing the period before Tea would shape the rest of the match. The way Tector and Anderson batted left no one in any doubt as to how they were going to approach the chase.
The sun had come out as the day progressed and the overcast conditions of the Knights innings was replaced by bright, warm sunshine in the late afternoon.
Eight boundaries from Tector and a further three from Anderson had moved the Lightning along to 83/0 at Tea. Tector was 49 not out, Anderson was 31 not out and there were 37 overs remaining in the day. In the evening session the Lightning needed 185 runs for victory.
Tector and Anderson added a further 46 runs to their partnership, including Anderson going to his 50 (6x4), before the Knights made the first breakthrough. James Cameron Dow bowled Jack Tector for 70 and the score was 129/1.
Balbirnie was the new batsman but when he fell for 8 and Singh followed quickly for 5, suddenly the Knights were on the prowl. The Lightning stood on 172/3 with 17 overs remaining and 96 runs needed. When Sean Terry and Anderson ended up at the same end and Terry (6) was run out the Lightning needed 86 off a little more than 14 overs.
However, if the opening partnership had set up the chase, Lorcan Tucker’s 72 run partnership with Anderson for the 5th wicket brought the Lightning home. A mixture of cleverly placed shots and powerful sixes back over the bowler’s head and to cow corner brought Tucker to 42 before he fell with just thirteen runs needed.
This left the stage free for John Anderson who had anchored the innings throughout. Cutting, pulling and manoeuvring the ball to all parts of the ground. It was an outstanding effort from the Merrion man and he carried his bat for 123 not out off 161 balls with 13 boundaries and 1 maximum.
It fell to captain George Dockrell to hit the winning runs, as his four straight down the ground sparked the celebrations in the Lightning dug-out and a five-wicket victory with 12 balls to spare that never looked certain until the last few overs.
“It was a fantastic game for the neutral,” said Van der Merwe. “That’s why John Anderson has probably been the best batsman in Leinster for the last 10 years. That’s no slight on any other batsman but he has the ability to pace an innings. He is a special player with a cool head.”
With regard to the timing of the declaration he felt it was “an astute declaration to keep up us interested and a couple of early wickets could have made it very different.
“They hung it out there and gave us something to chase, but we still needed one or two players having special knocks. We haven’t even mentioned Jack Tector’s knock, the two lads set up a brilliant platform.”
They certainly did that and after 3 days of the best advertisement of the format of cricket in Ireland, it was the Lightning who emerged victorious as we finished as we started, in glorious May sunshine.
Day 3 Close
Northern Knights 263 & 272/5 Dec. 62 Overs (James McCollum 84, James Shannon 66; Simi Singh 3-39)
Leinster Lightning 268 & 268/5 (John Anderson 123*, Jack Tector 70, Lorcan Tucker 42)
Leinster Lightning win by 5 wickets