Millpark have secured promotion to Section Two after a brilliant victory over their title rivals.
They claimed a four wicket win over Cooke Collegians at Banford Green and, with Dunmurry losing out to Monaghan after having to concede their game at Donaghadee, Millpark’s promotion was confirmed.
They also have the title in their hands and a win at Dunmurry on Saturday would deliver top spot.
Millpark got the win they needed without influential New Zealand batsman Ben Talbot, who scored 144 against Cooke last season, and hero of recent weeks, keeper-batsman John Simpson.
This meant the skipper Paul McCart would be forced to don the gloves with the side therefore also missing out on his valuable off-breaks.
Cooke were without Australian Sam Harkin, who had batted so well against Millpark only a few weeks ago.
It was no surprise that Millpark once again lost the toss and like at Shaw’s Bridge the opposing skipper, Graeme Pollock chose to have a bat.
Skipper McCart had no hesitation in throwing the new ball to 14 year old Harry Lockhart and it proved an inspired decision with the youngster immediately finding swing and away movement off the pitch.
Lockhart removed the dangerous Robinson, who had already raced to 16, caught at point by Jason Maxwell. This brought the hard-hitting Willmott to the crease. Veteran Billy Dale, at the other end, was next to go, playing a reckless shot off David Maxwell, which was very well held by Neil Reilly.
It was the wicket of Willmott that Millpark wanted and it was Lockhart who delivered, with an absolute jaffa of a delivery, which pitched on leg and hit middle stump. Willmott trudged off in disbelief, reminiscent of Gatting against Warne all those years ago.
The Cooke Collegians innings relied on Millar who was striking the ball confidently. Millpark strived to starve him of strike, while picking up wickets at the other end. Davy Glover was now into the attack and he picked up 3-24 from his spell.
However, it was the introduction of Jason Maxwell, bowling with no lack of pace and venom, who clean-bowled Millar (22) with a devilishly late inswinging yorker.
Cooke crawled up to 109 helped by the generosity of some wayward bowling and at tea Millpark felt confident of victory. However, the home side never make it easy for themselves and this was to be no exception.
Paul McCart returned to his opening spot alongside Davy Glover and Millpark raced to 32 from five overs with the run chase appearing a formality.
Pollock rung the changes and with the introduction of his slow men, Robinson and Dale, the complexion of the game immediately changed. Within five overs, McCart, Glover and the in form Ryan McCart were all out and Cooke had their tails up.
Was this to be a Millpark collapse? Vice captain Stu McCart alongside Jason Maxwell slowly began to rebuild the innings with the plan to see off both Robinson (2-30) and Dale (1-4), which they did. That Maxwell should get out off the very first ball of the new bowler was criminal. Millpark were still 35 runs short and nerves began to jangle.
Stu McCart was batting extremely sensibly and just needed someone to stay with him. Unfortunately David Maxwell and Neil Reilly were not able to do so and Andrew Woods came to the crease in his first game of the season.
Woods is a talented batsman who due to work commitments has been unavailable this season. He showed his skill by whipping the ball off his pads for a beautiful four but then in the same over, spooned the ball towards gully, where he was extremely fortunate to be dropped.
That was to prove the last chance for Cooke as Woods (8 n/o) and the impressive Stu McCart (22 n/o) saw the game home for a Millpark victory by four wickets.
Whatever happens next week, Millpark are still delighted to have gained promotion and hope this will encourage new players to join the club as they build to consolidate in Section Two and restart the Second XI once again.