Waringstown captain Lee Nelson believes his side still haven’t hit peak form this season but is hoping they can do just that in their Robinson Services Cup semi-final against CIYMS at The Green on Saturday (11am).
The Villagers qualified for the play-offs after finishing the league season in fourth, winning three and losing two of the matches that were contested on the pitch (two void games also).
That means they will take on CIYMS who finished at the top on net run-rate while hosts North Down will face Instonians before the two winners return to the Comber venue on Sunday for a final (2pm).
Waringstown are no strangers to the big occasion, reaching the Irish Senior Cup final for the past five seasons, winning three, and during that period have also picked up two Premier League’s, one Challenge Cup, one All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup and three NCU Twenty20 Cup’s.
That sort of dominance has only recently been challenged by Saturday’s opponents, who have won five of the last six competitions they have been involved in, including last weekend’s LVS T20 Cup, but Nelson is hoping that big game experience will help them in their quest for yet more silverware.
“Hopefully our experience of playing in these games will stand us in good stead,” he said.
“We have done OK this year but we probably haven’t played as well as we could have done.
“We have played to 70-80% of our capabilities if I’m being honest so I’m just hoping the boys will go out and express themselves on Saturday morning and see what we can do.”
Waringstown are the team that come into this game with the least match practice having missed their last two league fixtures due to bad weather while Instonians beat Carrickfergus last weekend and North Down were CI’s opponents in the Twenty20 final.
Their last game was an 18-run defeat to CIYMS at Belmont on August 15 and Nelson admits the weather and format has brought certain challenges with it.
“This is where the difficulty has been.
“It also seems to have rained every Tuesday and Thursday night at practice for the last few weeks too.
“The difficulty with having a season full of T20’s is a lot of guys don’t get a lot of batting or bowling bar a select few, so in pressure situations in big games there will be that element of rustiness from people that haven’t either batted or bowled much.”
One player that is very much in form is batsman James McCollum, who scored 79* for the Northern Knights against the North West Warriors on Tuesday at The Green.
The 25-year-old also started his innings against Leinster Lightning brightly in Dublin before he was caught for 17 but both matches showed just how much McCollum has improved and innovated in 20-over cricket.
A man for the big games, McCollum will play a crucial role alongside the likes of Adam Dennison, James Hall and Greg Thompson, who is one of the finest players in the NCU in this format, and Nelson believes the Irish international will be key to anything they achieve.
“He’s a class player.
“People sometimes think he can’t play in other formats but he has shown at the highest level In this country that he can.
“If we are going to win trophies and you look back at the big games, he has always had a say in them. We will be relying on a big performance from him.”
This is just the latest in a series of these two teams meeting in the latter stages of competitions and they tend to produce classics, such as CI’s one-run T20 Cup victory last season and Waringstown’s final over win to secure a place in the Irish Senior Cup.
In 2018, Waringstown won by one wicket in the Gallagher Challenge Cup semi-finals and Nelson is expecting another close game this time round.
“They’ve always been close.
“The two teams have a lot of respect for each other because we have played against each other in a lot of semi-finals.
“I don’t expect this one to be any different.”