Lisburn, the team who would not even have been in the Northern Cricket Union’s top league if there had been relegation last year, are the 2022 Robinson Services Premier League Champions.
Rome eighth out of eight at the end of last season to the top of the pile in the new 10-team league and crowned Champions with two matches to spare.
Neil Whitworth, one of their two new signings this year, had just completed his 50, to follow Faiz Fazal’s century against North Down at Comber when the news came through from Belmont that Civil Service North had beaten Lisburn’s only remaining challengers, CIYMS, by seven wickets so all Lisburn had to do was win an 11th match of the season.
At that stage they were 193 for three in the 41st over, and although they lost another five wickets for the addition of 60 runs, they already had enough on the board.
Indeed, any doubt about the result was effectively ended after just 10 balls of the North Down innings, Josh Manley and David Simpson having removed both Alistair Shields and Ani Chore without a run scored.
Less than 32 overs later, Mark Berry took the final wicket with just his seventh delivery to complete the greatest Premier League shock since Waringstown won the title in 2000, the year after they had been promoted.
Captain Callum Atkinson, who was playing in the Junior Cup final this time last year – his request, rather than playing in a dead rubber for the 1st XI – tried to explain where this surge in form and improvement came from.
“It hasn’t been one thing. We brought in two quality players in Neil Whitworth and David Miller and Uel Graham has been there (as 1st XI coach), but the lads who have been here for the last 10-15 years, perhaps, have been more refreshed,” said Atkinson .
“I’m really happy for Adam Berry and David Simpson, former captains, they have been a huge part of this, laying the foundations.
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster season but hats off to all the guys who have put so much effort in and while people might see this as a bit luck, we deserve this and I’m just really extremely proud of everyone at the club.”
Many of the Lisburn hierarchy missed their side’s moment of triumph because they were at the GMcG Junior Cup final, which ended in a second successive defeat for their 2nd XI, going down to CSN II by 64 runs.
The trophy is likely to be presented before next week’s home game against Civil Service North, ironically the team that helped them clinch the title yesterday with an incredible about turn, their victory coming just seven days after they were hammered by 10 wickets in the Challenge Cup final by CIYMS.
This time it was the CI batting that collapsed, bowled out for just 124 with Jason van der Merwe the top scorer with 29 and young Ryan Hunter then hit 57 as CSN romped home inside 20 overs.
Elsewhere it was a day of high scoring with Waringstown passing Carrickfergus’ 314 for six with seven balls and seven wickets to spare, after a second wicket stand of 267 between Morgan Topping and Ross Allen, the club’s second highest ever.
Cregagh’s dream of playing in the Premier League has lasted only one season, their relegation back to Section One confirmed yesterday, with a 13th straight defeat, as Cliftonville Academy posted 319 for five and a huge 216 runs victory.
Meanwhile, there could be a new name on the Long’s SuperValu Premiership trophy this season after Bready could only scramble over the line in their final game with a last ball and one wicket win over Eglinton.
That has left the door open for Newbuildings who claimed maximum points in their 63 point victory over Fox Lodge and they need just 22 points from their game in hand, at home to Ardmore next Saturday.
Newbuildings would still have had to win next week’s match even if Bready had lost – they would have been six points in front – so Ian Young’s four only gave the defending champions the satisfaction of a thrilling win.