Faiz Fazal set for Lisburn return

Indian international Faiz Fazal will be back as overseas professional at Lisburn for the 2021 season.

Fazal, who scored 55* in his sole ODI appearance against Zimbabwe in June 2016, has committed to another season in the NCU Premier League after impressing in 2019.

The 35-year-old played for a newly-promoted Lisburn during the 2019 campaign where he hit 608 runs in 12 innings at an average of 55.27, which included a high score of 139 against Bready in the Irish Senior Cup.

He also made an impact with the ball, collecting 14 wickets as he helped the Wallace Park side pick up three victories from their opening six league fixtures.

Fazal departed Northern Ireland early after he was called back to India for domestic cricket and, as any team would without their overseas professional, Lisburn struggled for the remainder of the campaign and narrowly avoided relegation back to Section One.

Having played in 125 First Class matches in which he has batted 214 times, Fazal brings a wealth of experience to Lisburn and has scored 8404 runs, which remarkably includes 21 centuries and 37 fifties, at an average of 41.39.

He also brings leadership qualities due to his position as captain of home side Vidarbha, scoring 151 in the final game before lockdown.

It has also been confirmed that Irish international Boyd Rankin and Northern Knights bowler Josh Manley, who both signed ahead of the shortened 2020 campaign, will return to Lisburn next season.

CSNI set to sign Ben Mackey

CSNI are set to announce the signing of pace bowler Ben Mackey from Section One side Armagh.

The 22-year-old has been a top performer in the Armagh first team over recent years and picked up 37 wickets during the 2017 campaign as The Mall outfit were promoted to the Premier League for the first time in 60 years when they won the Section One title.

Mackey played 10 times in that top-flight season, including seven games in the Premier League where he picked up five wickets with a best of 2-22 coming on the opening day victory over Muckamore.

Armagh were ultimately relegated but Mackey has continued to shine and bowled with pace and accuracy last season, picking up 15 wickets in nine matches, including 4-8 against Ballymena and a hat-trick on home turf in a win against Muckamore.

With that sort of form it was likely that Mackey would attract interest from top-flight clubs and that has been the case as he completes a move to CSNI.

Mackey is the fourth new recruit at Stormont ahead of the 2021 season with New Zealand U19 international Luke Georgeson, Lewis Adair and Ben White already joining.

Murray Commins to make NCU return with CIYMS

Murray Commins is on his way back to the NCU Premier League after signing for CIYMS.

The 23-year-old represented Instonians as their overseas professional during the 2019 season and broke into the Northern Knights side, playing five times, including a First Class outing against Leinster Lightning.

Commins actually made his presence known in the local game back in the summer of 2018 when he played one game for the Shaws Bridge outfit, where he scored 103 in an Irish Senior Cup defeat to Phoenix.

He wasn’t able to play in the NCU during the shortened 2020 season but now that he has obtained the appropriate visa, Commins will be deemed a local player for the upcoming campaign and will be working locally.

CIYMS have a seriously talented player on their hands with the left-handed batsman scoring 844 runs at an average of 44.42 in 2019, which put him seventh on the batting charts.

He will now take a spot in the CI top-order that already contains John Matchett, Chris Dougherty, Mark Adair and Jason van der Merwe.

Commins is the first recruitment for the reigning league champions who will be without Jacob Mulder next season.

Jamie Magowan returns to Muckamore

Wicketkeeper Jamie Magowan has returned to Muckamore from Premier League side North Down.

Magowan left the Moylena club for Comber ahead of the 2019 campaign and helped them win the Robinson Services Cup last season.

He played seven times for the Northern Knights between 2016 and 2017, making his First Class debut against the North West Warriors at The Green.

Magowan has established a reputation for himself as one of the best wicketkeeper’s in the NCU and finished last season with the most dismissals (16 from 10 matches).

He will be stepping down a league into Section One as Muckamore look to gain promotion back to the top tier of local cricket following their relegation in 2019.

“I am delighted to be back at my home club,” said Magowan.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed the past few seasons at North Down, but the opportunity to come back to Muckamore and be part of a young exciting team was something I couldn’t say no to.”

CSNI sign New Zealand U19 international Luke Georgeson

CSNI have made their first addition ahead of next season by signing New Zealand U19 all-rounder Luke Georgeson.

Georgeson, who is an Irish passport holder, was named in the New Zealand squad for the 2018 competition where the host nation finished eighth after losing a seventh-placed play-off to England.

Tom Banton scored 112 that day but Georgeson was also a star performer, picking up figures of 3/29 from his 10 overs.

The 21-year-old is a left-handed batsman and opened in his only List A appearance to date against Central Districts earlier this year.

He played against a former CSNI overseas professional that afternoon in Kieran Noema-Barnett, who spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons in Belfast, scoring 1,177 runs.

Georgeson will join fellow youth international Marc Ellison, who captained at the 2006 U19 World Cup, at the club.

His pace bowling will also help plug the gap that has been left at Stormont by the departure of Graeme McCarter to Carrickfergus.

Waringstown set to sign Graham Hume

Waringstown are understood to have pulled off a major signing ahead of the 2021 season with North West Warriors all-rounder Graham Hume set to join the club.

Hume has spent the last four seasons with Coleraine, picking up in excess of 100 wickets and scoring over 1200 runs for the North West side.

The 29-year-old made his Warriors debut in 2019 and was their standout performer throughout the shortened 2020 Inter-Provincial Series, picking up six wickets in five matches and was impressive with the bat, scoring 138 runs, including 47* in a Twenty20 fixture against Northern Knights.

He brings a lot of experience to The Lawn having played in 97 First Class and 41 List A matches throughout his career with the likes of South Africa U19s, KwaZulu-Natal Inland, Dolphins and Gauteng, for who he made his First Class debut back in February 2010.

It is also understood that Hume, who permanently resides in Northern Ireland, will be deemed as a local player and joins Andre Malan at The Lawn.

The left-handed batsman who bowls right arm pace could be viewed as an opening bowling partner for James Mitchell, who picked up the most wickets during the 2020 season, and would slot nicely into the middle order alongside the likes of captain Lee Nelson, Greg Thompson, James McCollum and Malan.

It is a massive boost to a side that have reached the last five Irish Senior Cup finals, winning three, as they look to challenge the likes of CIYMS and North Down going forward.

Jacob Mulder set for Australia return

Ireland international leg-spinner Jacob Mulder won’t be coming back to CIYMS for the 2021 season after opting to return to Australia.

Born in Perth, the 25-year-old has enjoyed a successful run in the NCU with North Down and CIYMS and his form grabbed the attention of international selectors before he made his debut in September 2016 against Hong Kong at Bready.

Mulder played 14 times in total for Ireland across formats but was released from his central contract by mutual consent in November 2018.

His form has been astonishing for the all-conquering CIYMS in recent times and he picked up 47 wickets in 2019 as the Belmont outfit collected a historic haul of four trophies.

That earned Mulder a recall into the international fold ahead of a Twenty20 series against Scotland and the Netherlands last year but a back injury ruled him out of that competition.

He also played a key role at Inter-Provincial level for the Northern Knights and developed a reputation as one of, if not the, best white ball spinner at Ireland’s disposal.

Mulder, who will leave Northern Ireland in December, admits it was a tough decision to make but took time to thank everyone who was involved in his Irish experience.

“There’s way too many people to thank individually but I’d like to thank everyone at CIYMS for giving me the opportunity to come over eight years ago as a young kid just looking to avoid a winter back home,” he said.

“I had no idea and couldn’t predict what has happened since. I’ve had some great experiences and even better times in my eight seasons.

“Playing for CI initially then getting thrown a lifeline by North Down when I was on my way home after two seasons – I owe that club a lot and couldn’t be more thankful for my two years at The Green!

“Playing cricket in Belfast is an awesome lifestyle and one that I’ve tried to enjoy as much as I can with friends and family.

“I’ve met some amazing people and made some lifelong friends in this country who will give me plenty of reasons to come back and visit in the future.

“I wish everyone at CIYMS the best for the future and hope they go well in La Manga!”

Cregagh sign duo from Downpatrick

Cregagh have secured the signings of Craig and Ross Boultwood from Downpatrick.

After recording a league and cup double last season, Aaron Johnston has added to his squad as they go in search of promotion to the Premier League.

Ross served as captain at Downpatrick and led them to two consecutive LVS Twenty20 Trophy titles in 2018 and 2019 while also guiding the club to a fourth placed finish in the Robinson Services Trophy last season.

He will likely take the new ball for Cregagh alongside Adam Beattie, who was their top wicket taker across both competitions last season.

Craig’s arrival adds yet another spinning option while he is also capable of batting in a top order which already contains the likes of Johnston, his younger brother Mark, Jay Hunter and Jonny Moore.

The duo spent eight seasons playing senior cricket at Premier League side CIYMS before leaving for Downpatrick.

They will bring a significant amount of top-flight experience to a side that are aiming to reach that level and Johnston is delighted to have them both on board.

“I’m delighted to finally have both Craig and Ross join us for next season after a couple of failed attempts in the past!” he said.

“They will bring much needed depth with bat and ball, hopefully allowing us to compete on all fronts next year, following on from the successful season we have just enjoyed.

“Both guys also bring previous Premier League experience with them, which is somewhere we as a club strive to get to in the coming years.

“Having spoken with both guys, I can sense their excitement at getting started and the news has further enhanced the buzz around our club at the moment.”

Graeme McCarter signs for Carrickfergus

Carrickfergus have made another statement of their intent ahead of the 2021 season by signing Graeme McCarter from CSNI.

McCarter joined CSNI in December 2015 from North West side Coleraine and went on to pick up 87 wickets across five seasons at Stormont.

He helped them win the 2016 Challenge Cup with a five-wicket triumph over CIYMS before they reached another final two years later, where they lost out to Waringstown at The Green.

The 28-year-old, who was with English County side Gloucestershire between 2012-2014, is one of the premier bowlers in the NCU’s top-flight and currently leads the Northern Knights attack.

McCarter made his Ireland debut against Namibia in September 2011 before playing one ODI against Scotland (September 2014) and turned out three times for his country in Twenty20 cricket.

He is also more than capable with the bat and proved that by scoring six half-centuries during his time in CSNI’s middle order.

His arrival adds a massive boost to a Carrick side that haven’t wasted any time in putting together a squad capable of challenging on all fronts next season with former Glamorgan all-rounder Jeremy Lawlor also signing for the Middle Road club while overseas professional Jacques Snyman is returning for a second campaign.

McCarter will likely share the new ball with Neil Gill, who signed from Muckamore ahead of last season, while they will be supported by the likes of Michael Armstrong, CJ van der Walt, Ryan Eagleson and Snyman.

Ruhan Pretorius commits to a fifth season with North Down

Ruhan Pretorius will once again represent North Down in the 2021 season after committing to another campaign with the Comber club.

The 29-year-old has been the standout player in the NCU in recent times and will now enter his fifth season at The Green and sixth in total in the NCU after spending the 2015 campaign with Waringstown.

Pretorius, who has been a regular in the Northern Knights side since making his debut last summer, topped the run-scoring charts last season, hitting 409 at an average of 68.17.

In total during his time with North Down, Pretorius has scored 3233 runs in 69 innings across competitions combined with 107 wickets.

He helped the club win the Robinson Services Cup last season, scoring 120* in a semi-final victory over Instonians and they were also runners-up in the LVS T20 Cup.

Pretorius will qualify for Ireland selection at the end of next year and if he continues to perform at a similar level, a first international cap could be on the horizon.