** Leinster Lightning top scorer Jamie Grassi. Picture: John Crothers
CRICKET: After a winter of changes the Leinster Lightning picked up where they left off in 2020 with a 6-wicket win over the North West Warriors thanks largely to Phoenix man Jamie Grassi’s 82.
The players observed a minutes silence before the game in honour of long-term Pembroke Cricket Club member Cyril Irwin who was a member for 73 years and twice club president. The club flag flew at half mast at Sydney Parade as a mark of respect for his recent passing.
Deputising for the quarantining Andrew Balbirnie, Grassi was in early after the loss of Kevin O’Brien (10) but set about rebuilding with Jack Tector (34) before the match-winning partnership of 106 with George Dockrell (51*).
Grassi admitted to a few nerves ahead of just his second game for the Leinster Lightning but as he settled to his task, he struck some beautiful shots, including a flick 6 over long leg off Boyd Rankin to bring up his half-century.
It was an important innings for Grassi coming in for the absent Ireland captain, and with Balbirnie unavailable again for the Northern Knights match, Grassi will have a chance to stake a claim for a place in the first eleven.
Head Coach Nigel Jones was quick to acknowledge how not only Jamie Grassi but also David O’Halloran, on debut, had stepped up when called upon due to the unavailability of some senior players.
Chasing 205 for victory after an impressive bowling display led by Pembroke’s Barry McCarthy (4-32), the Lightning weren’t always fluid in their season opener but got the job done comfortably in the end.
McCarthy bowled with pace and accuracy throughout his ten overs as his wickets opened and closed the Warriors innings.
The early wickets reined in the Warriors after Stephen Doheny (29 off 22) had come out of the traps flying.
Through the middle overs, impressive spells from Dockrell (2-47), reining InterPro player of the year Simi Singh (0-30) and a very promising eight overs from O’Halloran (0-31), ensured the run rate remained in constant control.
McCarthy returned to mop up the tail, including a delicious slower ball that outfoxed Craig Young and saw the visitors bowled out for 204 with seven balls of the innings remaining.
Having handed debuts to three youngsters and losing the vastly experienced Kevin O’Brien early in the chase, this was an impressive performance from Nigel Jones’ charges.