Bangor stay in touch at the top

A THIRTEEN-RUN victory over Victoria at Upritchard Park on Saturday delivered Bangor’s fifth straight win in Senior League Two.

It was a meeting between two of the division’s in-form sides, with the Lurgan visitors arriving in north Down having lost just once so far this season.

Bangor won the toss and elected to bat first on what looked to be a road-like surface with a tinge of green, setting up a fervent battle between bat and ball. Mark Hutchinson and Sam McMillan opened for Bangor and put in the hard yards early to keep the scoreboard ticking over, in the face of tricky bowling from the Victoria openers.

The 50 was brought up in 55 balls which does not do justice to the stellar application of both the openers, who made difficult conditions look elementary at times.

McMillan brought up a brisk 50, as his fine form with bat in hand continued, creating a firm foundation for the rest of the order to capitalise on. A frustrated Hutchinson departed shortly after McMillan’s half-century in a tight run out, but his efforts meant Bangor were 96-1 after 17 overs.

Captain Johnny Parker came to join McMillan at the crease and the pair would battle for another couple of overs before McMillan, seeking to bolster the run rate, lofted a drive into the air that was snared at mid-on.

Robbie Van Harte and Parker now sought to build a new and equally formidable partnership. In the face of tough and awkward bowling in the middle overs, the pair took the Bangor total to 164 after 31 overs until Parker was out caught for 25, also seeking to up the rate.

This brought the belligerent Andrew Kirkpatrick to the crease, who added to the Bangor with some lusty blows until he departed for 36 off 24 balls, including four boundaries.

Will Simpson, James Patterson and James Griffin would all make cameo appearances. All the while, Van Harte, struggling with an injury, battled doggedly to keep the scoreboard ticking over and occasionally added some fierce ball striking of his own to the irresistible Bangor offensive.

The innings would close with Bangor on 233-6 and Van Harte bringing up a deserved half-century.

On a pitch like Upritchard Park, this total was not necessarily safe. The brash and occasionally erratic bowling of Chris Pyper and measured and controlled seam bowling of Van Harte opened the bowling for Bangor, seeking to gain similar success as achieved the week before against Dunmurry.

Maidens were commonplace within the first few overs and in the fourth Bangor would have their breakthrough. Pyper, riding the crest of a wave after his Spectator back page appearance, bowled two in-swinging deliveries followed by an out-swinger that found the edge and was coolly taken by Hutchinson.

As maidens continued, Victoria were 3-1 after six overs and escaped the first ten at 22-1 well behind the rate. The away side would battle on with some big partnerships. George Prince and Simpson fought hard, but when overseas Shaikh came to the crease, after Simpson dismissed Hall LBW, a devastating piece of hitting ensued. Shaikh notched up 65 off 49 with three fours and six sixes leaving Bangor reeling.

Enter James Patterson. Patterson tempted Shaikh into a slog sweep, but the bowler’s flight and guile prevented a clean strike from Shaikh, who hit the ball too flat and into the grateful grasp of skipper Parker. Victoria needed eight an over off of the last eight as their danger man departed.

Sam McMillan must be commended for his bowling in the late middle overs to the depth. The Bangor starboy hid the ball well outside the off stump and collected a brace of wickets as he restricted the Victoria onslaught. When McMillan claimed his second wicket removing Vennard caught and bowled, Bangor were now firmly in the ascendancy.

Despite a late flourish in Patterson’s last over, Bangor held their nerve as Pyper bowled the last and the Seasiders claimed their victory.

The game was defined by the first 10 overs of both innings, where Bangor batted with great skill and intent, leaving a lot for the Victoria side to do. Bangor now enjoy a week’s break before league action resumes on June 15, when the Upritchard Park team look to continue their assault on the top of the table.

Bangor 233-6 (40 overs, S McMillan 63, M Hutchinson 29, J Parker 25, R Van Harte 50, A Kirkpatrick 36, A Shaikh 2-66)

Victoria 220-5 (40 overs, A Gray 45, J Hall 44, A Shaikh 65, S Sathyan 26*, S McMillan 2-29)

Bangor beat Victoria by 13 runs