Andrew Balbirnie’s stunning 125, ably assisted by 81 from Pembroke teammate Lorcan Tucker, helped the Lightning to a 6-wicket victory over the Northern Knights in La Manga, Spain on Thursday.
Balbirnie and Tucker came together with the Lightning 18/2 after nine overs chasing 291, and in a little trouble. Their partnership of 162 guided their side out of that hole but when Tucker fell, the Lightning still required 111 runs in 15 overs.
“It was obviously nice to build a good partnership with Lorcan (Tucker),” said Balbirnie after the match. “To chase that total comfortably is a great start to the season.”
Balbirnie’s almost run a ball 125 (126 balls; 14x4, 4x6) was peppered with exquisite shots as he took to the Knights bowling. Joined by Kevin O’Brien who made an unbeaten 49 (33 balls; 4x4, 1x6), they put on 89 for the fourth wicket.
The moment @balbo90 brought up his century on his way to his top score for the @LCU_Lightning in 50-over cricket in our 6 wicket #TTIP2019 win over the Knights in La Manga today pic.twitter.com/LpyrRvduYQ— Leinster Lightning (@CL_LLightning) April 25, 2019
The only downside for Balbirnie was that he wasn’t there to hit the winning runs, falling with just 22 required in 32 deliveries.
It fell to O’Brien and Simi Singh 15* to take the Lightning home to the target with 19 balls remaining.
Captain George Dockrell was delighted with the victory.
“We’re really pleased to start the season with a win. It was a fantastic partnership between Lorcan (Tucker) and Balbo (Andrew Balbirnie) after a slow start. The two of them played it beautifully, knowing exactly when to up the rate and it was fantastic to see Balbo get a ton.”
Dockrell didn’t leave O’Brien or Singh out of his praise. “Credit to the two lads who laid the platform, and then Kevin and Simi who brought it home and made it a comfortable chase in the end.”
At half-time the chase was a large but gettable one after half-centuries from Marc Ellison (85) and Harry Tector (57) had brought the Northern Knights to 290/8.
“We did well to restrict them to a score below 300, considering how well they started, so credit to the bowlers at the death on a very batter friendly ground,” said Dockrell.
Tyrone Kane (5-0-18-0) did bowl economically up front and Barry McCarthy took 2-43 off 9, but it was the skipper, Dockrell, who was the pick of the bowlers with 3-42 off his full allocation.
All told there were contributions from a number of players in all three facets of the game. There was however, only one option for Player of the Match and that was Andrew Balbirnie for his magnificent 125.
As the players return from Spain and look ahead to the rest of the season, George Dockrell added, “it was a pity we had our first game abandoned but we’re delighted to finish the trip with a win and take that into the rest of the summer.”
InterProvincial 50-Over Cup, Leinster Lightning v Northern Knights
At La Manga, Spain;
Northern Knights 290/8 50 overs (M Ellison 85, H Tector 57; G Dockrell 3-42, B McCarthy 2-43)
Leinster Lightning 294/4 (A Balbirnie 125, L Tucker 81, K O’Brien 49*; G McCarter 2-33)
Leinster Lightning win by 6 wickets