Defeat at CIYMS keeps Ballymena in relegation sweat

BALLYMENA travelled to Belmont on Saturday hoping to record a vital victory in their bid to avoid relegation from the Premier League.

James Kennedy won the toss and chose to bat on what turned out to be a reasonable batting wicket.

Things started well enough for his team with William Montgomery hitting an impressive 27 at the top of the order. David Kennedy came in at number three and, while not at his fluent best, played a disciplined knock to hold the Ballymena innings together.

His best support came from his brother Robert who helped him add 82 for the fifth wicket . Robert drove the ball strongly to hit 34 off 42 balls, with 4 fours and a six. When he was out with the score at 191 for 5 with 9 overs still left , Ballymena looked well placed to reach a total of around 260 .

However the match turned in the next few overs as Ballymena’s lower order got themselves out trying to force the pace against some accurate bowling from CIYMS spinner Ryan Hanna.

David Kennedy rapidly found himself running out of partners and was eventually last man out for a fighting 82, made off 108 balls with 9 fours and a six.

The final total of 218 certainly left the bowlers with something to bowl at but was probably about 30-40 runs short of the sort of score needed to put CIYMS’s strong top order batting under real pressure.

As it turned out , the strong CIYMS top five always seemed to be in command against a Ballymena bowling attack which never gave up but lacked any real cutting edge.

Barry Cooper and Michael Hingston were largely untroubled as they put on 82 for the first wicket .

Kaushik Aphale did eventually dismiss both Cooper for 66 and the experienced Derek Heasley for 18 to leave CIYMS on 167 for 3 with less than 8 overs left.

Unfortunately for Ballymena this brought to the wicket the home team’s professional Craig McMillan. It was an ideal situation for the big-hitting former test match cricketer from New Zealand and he finished the match off in the 48th over with a whirlwind innings of 43 from just 18 balls, with 5 sixes and 2 fours.

It was a disappointing end for a Ballymena team who had given everything in the field but who once again were undone by their inability to put pressure on their opponent’s run chase by taking early wickets.

The pain of defeat for Ballymena was slightly softened by the news that fellow relegation strugglers Downpatrick had lost at Waringstown. However there is no doubt that the side now finds itself in a real dogfight to avoid the drop.

With James Kennedy leaving to work in Sri Lanka,Simon McDowell will take over the captaincy on Saturday for a very tough match against a North Down team for whom a victory would secure the league title.

Simon must be hoping that Ballymena’s traditional ability to produce big performances in really tough situations will resurface this weekend.

Despite their poor form this season this Ballymena side still contains some talented cricketers and it is not beyond them to repeat last season’s surprise victory over the Comber team.