Western Warriors are playing catch-up in their quest for a successful T20 Blitz title defence after suffering back-to-back defeats on the opening day of the new campaign.
Home advantage at Titwood counted for little as Andy Tennant’s side were first outgunned by the Eastern Knights before going down narrowly to the Caley Highlanders.
Tennant admitted: “My overwhelming feeling is one of disappointment – we came in as defending champions and with a home double header so to lose both is tough to take.”
The writing was on the wall early on for the Warriors when, having chosen to bat, their optimism was quickly quelled amid a flurry of wickets – many of the soft variety.
Indeed, at 61-7 the home side were staring at humiliation as the Knights’ bowlers seized total control.
The blushes were partially spared by a partnership of 40 between Ross Lyons and Mitchell Rao, the former again doing his hopes of a Scotland recall no harm.
Lyons top-scored with a battling 37no which included five boundaries and one maximum while Rao pitched-in with 20, also clearing the ropes on one occasion.
Their effort allowed the Warriors to recover to reach 116-8 but the real eye-catching performances came from the visitors, Mark Watt and Gordon Goudie claiming 2-22 and 2-21 respectively while Andrew Brock was wonderfully economical, conceding just 14 runs from his four overs.
The run-chase appeared to be over in a flash as George Munsey and Mike Carson came out with all guns blazing.
It is rare to see Munsey upstaged in the big-hitting department but he was on this occasion as his Watsonians colleague raced to a half-century.
Carson unleashed a barrage of powerfully struck shots, at one stage helping himself to 22 runs from one over by Ihtisham Malik.
Carson reached his half-century with a beautifully timed drive to the long-off boundary and had made 60 from just 32 balls with eleven boundaries and a six before becoming the first batsman to fall when he pulled Rao powerfully to Riyaad Henry at mid-wicket.
Rao picked up another consolation wicket when he had Goudie stumped by Dave Stafford while Adil Raza trapped Dylan Budge lbw but Munsey finished the match in fitting fashion with a big six which also brought up his half-century.
The Scotland left-hander faced 39 balls and plundered three maximums in addition to five boundaries.
HAVING lost inside fourteen overs, the Warriors had a longer interval than expected to reflect on their performance and they looked intent on making amends as they again batted first against Caley Highlanders.
Mo Awais led the way with a sparkling knock which put the Highlanders on the back foot. With skipper Richie Berrington playing second fiddle, Awais helped the Warriors reach 50 in just 5.3 overs.
However, the Highlanders fought back well and a flurry of wickets stalled the home side.
Kyle Coetzer emerged as the visitors’ unlikely bowling hero with 3-12 as Michael English, Henry and Fazal Jawad all fell for single figures.
Awais was fifth out for a brilliant 58-ball 72 including eleven boundaries and it was again left to Lyons to steer the Warriors home, this time adding 28no as the innings closed on 134-5.
The home side sensed victory when Hamza Tahir and Raza struck to remove Coetzer and Chris Venske before Caley had scored a run.
However, Scotland duo Michael Leask and Craig Wallace led the recovery with a stand of 46 before Leask offered a catch to Berrington off Lyons to depart for 21.
Wallace, though, continued to bat with real purpose and, with the help of cameo knocks from Safyaan Sharif and Callum Garden who each made 18, he took his side to within nine runs of victory before becoming Tahir’s second victim for a well-constructed 50.
Caley still needed those nine runs going into the final over but the tension was eased when Ryan Brown hoisted a straight six off Raza to finish it with three balls to spare, Christian Robertson ending unbeaten on 17.
Tennant added: “We were outplayed by the Eastern Knights and quite simply didn’t get enough runs. They knocked off the runs quite easily.
“I was pleased that we showed a lot more fight in the second game though we still felt 134 was 20 runs or so short.
“The bowling and fielding unit took the game as deep as we could. As far as the positives go, Ross, Mo and Hamza can walk away with their heads held high.
“We have work to do but we’ll come back stronger.”