It was the magnificent batting of South African professional Rassie van der Dussen that dominated the 2015 NCU Challenge Cup Final and proved crucial in CI’s first ever win. Fresh from his awesome 134 in the aborted Friday game the tall opener repeated his feat with another fine century (117) and tore the heart out of the Instonians fight-back after the Old Boys put in a much better performance than the previous day.
Comber was basked in sunshine when the game re-started, but it was a day of mixed weather and once again the local members were put to the test with four journeys to the square to put on and then take off the covers. But nothing deterred the superb artistry of Rassie who gave another masterful display before a good crowd. After Chris Dougherty fell early young John Matchett (46) gave the opener solid support with a spirited innings, but his enthusiasm got the better of him when well placed and some tight bowling from Andrew White (1-18 off 10 overs) kept Inst in the game. However, Rassie was relentless and as he strolled into the record books with a second successive century he provided the platform for all-rounder Johnny Thompson (68) to set a formidable, but reachable total of 259-7.
The Instonians reply depended heavily on skipper Neil Russell, James Shannon and Andrew White, but when Duckworth Lewis revised the target to 246 off 46 overs it became an uphill task. A blow to the head to Russell exacerbated their plight when he was in full flight, and the mantle fell to White and Shannon. Thomson and Dunne were lively in the opening overs, but it was James Cameron-Dow who took control of the innings with four wickets including the dangerous White (16), who was stumped after an unnecessary rush of blood dancing down the wicket. Shannon (61) was at his majestic best, but with limited support and could have been a potential match-winner. However, he edged behind after striking a big six and everything hinged on the return of big-hitting Russell. It was a courageous effort from the belligerent opener and he delighted the crowd with some massive hits, but just when he looked like causing a major upset he holed out to Jones on the boundary.
Meanwhile the canny Cameron-Dow wiped up the tail and it was all over for the Old Boys on 195 some 50 short of their target.
Rassie van der Dussen was deservedly named Man-of-the-Match by NCU President Billy Boyd after two days of exhibition batting and a very proud Chris Dougherty collected the magnificent Senior Cup for the first time in the club’s history. It was no more than they deserved as the Belmont club had been in the driving seat from the outset despite the weather challenges.
Man of the Match: Rassie van der Dussen.
Also well done the Northern Cricket Union for their management of the final and to Peter Shields and the North Down members for their valiant efforts in keeping the match alive between the showers. The Green was resplendent and a fitting venue for the cup final, the match was played in a fine spirit, there was a good crowd, the cricket was entertaining and the better team won. And just to add the cream to the cake the batting of Rassie van der Dussen over two days was exceptional.
Finally a big thank you to the Ulster Bank for their sponsorship of the competition as this was their last year in the role.