The more things change, the more that they stay the same.
This was the message from Leinster Lightning today as their 2021 men’s IP50 season kicked into life at Pembroke with a comprehensive six wicket victory over the North-West Warriors.
Set a target of just 205 they had 15 balls to spare at the end. However, you always had the impression that if they had needed 250, they would have upped the tempo and got that comfortably.
Jamie Grassi scored 82. Pic: Rodney Smythe
The powers that be decreed, correctly in my view, that the strength of the Lightning was such that in order to ensure that the top players in the country were competing at as high as level as possible, the top talent should be spread over four squads. This meant that the Leinster diaspora effectively contributed the equivalent of a full squad to their three competitors.
Despite this, and the loss of three of their own squad, Andrew Balbirnie, Josh Little and Rory Anders for various reasons, there was barely a hiccup as they marched to victory.
The first player to take advantage of the opportunity to showcase their skills was Jamie Grassi who compiled a match winning 82, falling with just seven runs required to take the points. The former North County man who is now with Phoenix mixed judicious defence with thumping hits particularly on the leg side.
He reached his maiden List A fifty by going down on one knee and sweeping Boyd Rankin over the pavilion for six, something that would have seemed extremely foolish against the Rankin of five years ago.
Grassi shared a 106 fourth wicket partnership with his skipper, and new Phoenix team mate George Dockrell, who last passed 50 in the 50 over competition when he got back-to-back scores in the 90’s in 2018, reached that milestone today with an imperious unbeaten 51.
While both Kevin O’Brien and Lorcan Tucker departed for 10 to Graham Hume, Jack Tector made a steady 34 in a 62-run partnership with Grassi which helped set the foundation for the win.
Hume bowled well and with luck could have had more wickets. Craig Young also put in a steady performance without reward. Warriors captain Andy McBrine, as he always seems to nowadays, whether for country or province, probed away with a tight line and length and conceded just 43 off his full compliment while taking Tector’s wicket.
The biggest disappointment was the aforementioned Rankin who never looked to be in rhythm but hopefully when the weather warms up and he gets more mileage into his legs he can return to something close to his old dangerous self.
Earlier Dockrell, having won the toss decided to bowl first and gave us the opportunity to see a masterclass in seam and swing bowling from Barry McCarthy.
Barry McCarthy took 4 for 32
Bowling a relentless line and length at a brisk pace, he caused issues for every batsman and the only surprise is that he only got two wickets in his opening spell. Should he maintain his form then it is difficult to see him not taking the new ball against the Netherlands on 2nd June.
Peter Chase and Craig Young, two of his main rivals for the opening bowling spots were on show today, and while both bowled well, they were a level below the Pembroke man.
Stephen Doheny, McBrine and Hume all batted with purpose and although Hume top scored with 44 not out none of the three could play the substantial innings that was required to make it a truly meaningful contest.
Warriors Head Coach Gary Wilson has seen his new charges in competitive action for the first time and will recognise that the batting needs to go up at least one level if they are to challenge for the title.
With a more even distribution of talent through the teams, scores of around 200 are not going to win many games. There is a lot of talent and experience in the Warriors squad and if Wilson can harness that then there may be brighter days ahead.
Next up for Lightning is a home clash against Northern Knights, while Munster Reds' debut comes at Eglinton next Thursday away to the Warriors.
Interpro 50-over cup
At Sydney Parade
North-West Warriors 204 off 48.5 overs (G. Hume 44*, B. McCarthy 4-32) lost by 6 wickets to Leinster Lightning 207-4 off 47.3 overs (J Grassi 82, G Dockrell 51*, G. Hume 2-39).