Saturday’s fixture at Laurelvale against league leaders Saintfield was delayed for a couple of hours when rainwater leaked under the covers making the wicket slightly damp.
With strong sun and sharp breeze drying out the surface the game eventually got under way albeit reduced to 26 overs.
Laurelvale won the toss and asked the visitors to bat and openers Ahire and Derek McCann started confidently, with professional Ahire in particular punishing any loose deliveries.
A change of bowling brought Lee Edgar into the attack and in his first over he trapped Ahire leg before wicket for 26. Two overs later McCann was caught behind with Edgar again the bowler. Balmer and Harrison knuckled down and took the Saintfield score to 90 before Henry, in his second spell, struck removing Balmer caught and bowled.
Henry then claimed the wicket of Owens with Stuart McClelland taking a fine diving catch. Gary Murphy got in on the act with a caught and bowled decision removing David McCann.
Lee Edgar picked up his third wicket of the game when he clean bowled Harrison for 29. Gary Murphy followed up with a further two wickets before Ricky Wilson took the final two wickets to close the Saintfield innings reading 128.
This score could well have read 20 runs fewer had the Vale fielders taken all their chances but with their recent good batting form the target of slightly over 5 runs per over was well within their capability.
The Laurelvale reply got off to a stuttering start with Daryll Henry and Chris Webb both out with very little to show for their efforts. Philip Weir and Gary Murphy did start to get some runs up on the scoreboard but then Weir was stumped off the bowling of David McCann.
Captain David Sinton joined Murphy but was caught behind shortly afterwards and Stuart McClelland followed also caught. At this stage the scoreboard was reading 86 for 5 with 5 overs left.
Disaster struck when Murphy was bowled by David McCann having made an invaluable 47.
Mark Thornbury and Michael Burns both went cheaply, bringing Ricky Wilson out to the crease with 35 runs required from 3 overs. Wilson proceeded to wield his bat with venom to the delight of the home support clearing the boundary four or five times. With the support of Lee Edgar, Wilson saw Vale over the line with five balls to spare, for a significant win which propels Vale to the top of the table.
An entertaining match for the home supporters who will no doubt be out in force for Vale’s next fixture, a trip to the Mall on Saturday 18th for their Junior Cup semi-final against derby rivals Armagh.