5 thoughts from the past week in NCU cricket

Another week of NCU cricket has come and gone.

From the Northern Knights to young stars and the Women’s Challenge Cup semi-finals to flying form, we jot down five thoughts from the week that was.

1 – Jack Dickson another Instonians young gun that’s firing

Instonians have an array of young guys that have been given an opportunity and done well in the top-flight and we can now add Jack Dickson’s name to that list.

The 17-year-old scored his first ever top-flight half-century on Saturday as he blitzed 73* from 42 balls (four fours, six sixes) in a 118 fourth-wicket partnership with Irish international Shane Getkate (56 from 41), who Dickson was out-scoring as they pushed their side up to 175/6 before bowling Woodvale out for 84.

Captain Andrew White has made it clear that he sees this season as a great chance to give the younger crop more experience and to prove what they can do and he deserves credit for sticking with that plan when the obvious temptation would be to push himself and Nikolai Smith up the order as they fight for a play-off spot.

Dickson, who is part of the NCU U17 side, is certainly one to keep an eye on as he progresses further at Shaws Bridge and they’ll be hoping he can produce more of the same in the coming years.

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Jack Dickson hits a six. ©CricketEurope

2 – Looking at the Northern Knights

I’m not sure how you look at the Northern Knights 13-man squad that has been selected for the Twenty20 Inter-Pro campaign and aren’t just full of excitement about their potential.

11 internationals, a future international (in my opinion) in Ruhan Pretorius and Ross Adair who can clear any boundary were all named in the T20 side on Friday and the sky really is the limit for them, although it’s clearly going to be tough beating a Leinster Lightning side that have been further boosted by the inclusion of Curtis Campher.

It’ll be interesting to see what way head coach Simon Johnston goes with his squad in the opener against North West Warriors on Thursday with so many options at the top of the order to accompany Paul Stirling, including James McCollum, Adair, Pretorius and Shane Getkate all included while Johnston even threw Mark Adair’s name out as a possibility in our interview last week.

A squad can be judged on how good it is by the calibre of player that is left out and I think of North Down duo Alistair Shields and Carl Robinson and Waringstown fast bowler James Mitchell as those who are quite unfortunate to miss out.

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Simon Johnston with Ruhan Pretorius. ©CricketEurope

3 – North Down and CIYMS are absolutely flying

North Down and CIYMS would have been considered the two favourites for all competitions when heading into the shortened 2020 season and the pair have certainly lived up to that billing.

They are both tied on 16 points with CIYMS slightly ahead on net run-rate heading into their Robinson Services Cup meeting on Saturday before clashing again on Sunday in the LVS Twenty20 Cup final.

Both sides are absolutely jam-packed with pure quality and class, meaning this weekend’s double-header could produce some of the best cricket that the local game has to offer and matches like that is what it’s all about.

With a semi-final and final deciding who walks away with the Robinson Services Cup, you get the feeling this weekend won’t mark the last time they face each other this season.

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CIYMS will be looking to retain their crown this weekend. ©CricketEurope

4 – CSNI back in the Gallagher Women’s Challenge Cup final

Defending champions CSNI are back in the Women’s Challenge Cup final once again after beating Lurgan by five wickets on Sunday.

They will come up against Waringstown, who have reached their first final after successfully chasing 136 against last year’s finalists Muckamore, securing a seven-wicket triumph.

Both sides are in form and haven’t lost a game between them this season with Waringstown two from two in Group B of the Women’s League while CSNI beat Holywood by five wickets in their only Women’s League Group A outing of the season so far.

Charlotte Lyons has been in fine form for Waringstown, scoring 43* on Sunday to add to the 34 she hit against Lurgan in the league while CSNI captain Abbi Leckey, Aoife Fisher and Ash Healy are clear threats with the ball.

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Charlotte Lyons batting for Waringstown. ©CricketEurope

5 – Is this the new normal?

My mind flashed forward to next season this weekend and it got me thinking will Twenty20 matches be the new normal, especially in the Junior League’s?

I think there is little to no chance of senior league cricket moving to exclusively T20 and nor do I think it should, but I do wonder if the popular conversation about changing it to 40 overs (and whisper it quietly, white ball) will start doing the rounds once again.

This season I have enjoyed playing every week for Armagh 2s with my reporting role changing a bit and I must admit I have absolutely loved the 10:30/11am starts, getting to play with your mates and then having the rest of the day free to do whatever you want to do, which is usually to go and watch more cricket.

Talking to people involved in games under senior level, many have seemed to enjoy the changes that this season has brought with it in terms of format and I’m interested to see if that will stick at Junior cricket or if we will go back to normal from next season onwards.

An obvious issue is getting people involved in 20 overs because by the very nature of the game there is just less opportunity to bat and bowl, so if we do return to 30/35 overs (which I’m not even opposed to), I really hope that starting at 10:30/11 is something that continues.

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I’ve loved getting to play more on The Mall this season.

Robinson Services and D&P Cricket Player of the Week – Jack Dickson

Instonians batsman Jack Dickson has been named Robinson Services and D&P Cricket Player of the Week after scoring 73* in their Robinson Services Cup victory over Woodvale on Saturday.

Coming to the crease at number five with the score sitting at 43-3, the 17-year-old proceeded to score his runs from 42 balls, marking his first ever top-flight half-century in style with a strike-rate of 173.8 and six sixes.

Batting alongside Irish international Shane Getkate (56 from 41), the pair put on 118 for the fourth wicket to help their side to an important 91-run triumph.

Dickson has more than justified his promotion up the batting order and for his performance at the weekend earns a £50 voucher to spend on equipment at D&P Cricket.

Honourable mentions

  • This has been the hardest week to pick a winner and it could have very easily gone to Cliftonville Academy’s Max Burton who scored 87 to help his side chase 159 to beat Ballymena in the Robinson Services Trophy.
  • In the same game, John Glass scored 76 for Ballymena as they finished their 20 overs on 158/6.
  • Ewan Wilson also scored a half-century on Saturday, hitting 56* as Muckamore beat Downpatrick by 10 wickets.
  • Ireland international James McCollum scored 57 and took 2-31 in Waringstown’s 18-run defeat to CIYMS.
  • Ruhan Pretorius was in the runs again as he batted throughout North Down’s innings on Saturday, finishing on 58* before picking up two wickets in their victory over CSNI.
  • As previously mentioned, Shane Getkate also scored a half-century in the same game as Dickson.

‘It’s as strong as we’ve been since I was involved’ – Northern Knights head coach Simon Johnston looks ahead to the Inter-Provincial Series

Northern Knights head coach Simon Johnston believes the squad has never been in a stronger position during his time in the role than it is now ahead of the 2020 Inter-Provincial Series.

Johnston was appointed in October 2016 and helped the Knights pick up their first piece of silverware in six years when they won the Inter-Provincial Trophy last season.

In the 13-man squad that was released by Cricket Ireland on Friday, there are no fewer than 11 senior Irish internationals, including captain Gary Wilson and Paul Stirling, who will be available for the opening game on August 20 against the North West Warriors.

With the calibre of player at his disposal, it is no surprise that Johnston feels this is the most talented squad he has been involved with.

“As long as everybody pulls up fit, it’s as strong as we’ve been since I was involved,” he said.

“I think we have all of our bases covered so as long as everybody can pull up fit, which I’m confident they will, then we should be in really good shape.

“I’m very happy with the balance and we have a few new faces in so I’m excited to see what happens.”

The new face that was named in the 13-man squad is Ross Adair, who has started life in the top-flight with CSNI in blistering form.

Adair moved to the Stormont club from Holywood during the winter and most recently smashed 92 from 38 balls in a league victory against Carrickfergus last weekend.

The 26-year-old played for the Emerging Knights last season and scored 129 runs in two innings during the recent intra-squad practice games.

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Ross Adair. ©CricketEurope

“He adds a couple of things but for anyone that has watched him it’s just the cleanness of ball-striking,” added Johnston.

“It’s a bit of an x-factor and I know some people think he’s smashing it at the start of the year and that’s why he’s in but he played two Emerging games last year and smashed it.

“He trained with us over the winter and we were all so impressed with him. It’s not just a flash in the pan from him.

“When we brought him into the Emerging games I know there was some surprise because he was playing in Section One but he was getting a hundred every other game nearly.

“He is a modern T20 player. It’s raw but the ball-striking is brilliant, he’s a really good fielder and he bowls some handy spin.

“If you’re coming in from the cold and looking at a guy who hits a big ball, fields well and bowls good spin, you’ve got the makings of a very good player there.”

Adair is just one option that Johnston could go with at the top of the order alongside Stirling in the opening game before a new combination will be needed for the remainder of the Twenty20 matches due to Stirling’s T20 Blast commitments with Northants.

With James McCollum, Shane Getkate and Ruhan Pretorius also named in the squad, the competition for a spot opening the batting is fierce.

“With James McCollum and the changes he has made to his white ball game – I think people forget that he opened for us in the competition last year and did a brilliant job striking at 140+,” said Johnston.

“Gets can do it, Ruhan could do it, I’ll tell you that Mark Adair can do it and a guy that we haven’t named that’s scoring a lot of runs that could do it is Chris Dougherty.

“It’s a credit to the boys that there is a real competition for places there and it’s a great problem to have.”

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Shane Getkate. ©CricketEurope

McCollum and Wilson were named in the Ireland squad that travelled to England recently for a three-game ODI series but neither were called upon on matchday.

Getkate was unfortunate to not make the touring party and while they have nothing to prove to anyone, Johnston believes there is an added fire burning inside.

“They’ve nothing to prove because they are quality performers and are where they are, but you can see a bit of fire in their eyes.

“They always have been hungry but I think if they needed any motivation then they have it even more. It’s great to see.”

On the bowling front, the Knights appear to have every base covered with the raw pace of David Delany mixed with the skill of Mark Adair, control of Graeme McCarter and two classy spinners in Jacob Mulder and James Cameron-Dow.

You can often tell just how strong a squad is by how good the players that have been left out are and by that measure the Knights are in a fantastic spot.

“The good thing is that everyone we’ve picked wants to play at a higher level,” said Johnston.

“There are a lot of guys scoring runs at club level who are available if we need them and we’ve had good conversations with them that they mightn’t be looking to play for Ireland so the priority should go to the guys that really want to be professional cricketers.

“I’ve watched Ally Shields bat beautifully so it’s a nice problem to have when you have guys playing well.”

The overriding emotion for Johnston is one of excitement after the amount of time he and his squad of players have had to wait to get back onto the field of play.

“We are excited about it.

“Myself and Wilson have had a good chat about the way we want to play and we are looking to build on the smart, aggressive cricket we played last year and I’m excited to see where it goes.

“Most teams try to be aggressive in T20 cricket but Gary brought in a real edge of playing smart cricket as well.

“I’m excited to see where we can go with it.”

Northern Knights

  • T20 squad: Gary Wilson (capt), Paul Stirling, James McCollum, Harry Tector, Shane Getkate, Ruhan Pretorius, Mark Adair, Jacob Mulder, Graeme McCarter, David Delany, Ross Adair, Greg Thompson, James Cameron-Dow.

 

  • 50-over squad: Gary Wilson (capt), Paul Stirling, James McCollum, Harry Tector, Shane Getkate, Ruhan Pretorius, Mark Adair, Jacob Mulder, Graeme McCarter, David Delany, Marc Ellison, Neil Rock, James Cameron-Dow.

‘It was frightening’ – James Kennedy reflects on Adair and Ellison exploits

It took CSNI just 14 overs to chase down 166 against Carrickfergus last weekend as they secured a nine-wicket Robinson Services Cup victory.

George Munsey (80 from 42) helped visiting Carrick set a more than competitive total of 165/7 but it turned out to be nowhere near enough as Ross Adair (92 from 38) and Marc Ellison (59* from 37) put on 156 for the first wicket.

The two teams hit 28 fours and 20 sixes between them with the CSNI opening duo responsible for 25 of the boundaries in an afternoon that the bowlers will want to forget.

“It was frightening,” said captain James Kennedy.

“There was some good clean ball-striking.

“They compliment each other very well at the top of the order and they score their runs in very different areas.

“As the scorecards have proven, they are a handful for most bowlers. If you bowl it in their area they are going to punish you.”

Adair has wasted no time in showing everyone what he is all about after a winter move from Holywood.

He has also impressed with the ball and while it can take some players a period of time to settle into a new club, Kennedy knew from very early on that the 26-year-old would have an immediate impact.

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Ross Adair. ©CricketEurope

“We knew straight away before a ball was struck that Ross has the quality to do that,” he added.

“He hasn’t let us down at all. His ball-striking was as clean as I have witnessed in a long time.

“He hit some which weren’t just sixes they were definitely worth 12!”

CSNI also welcomed back the Irish international duo of Stuart Thompson and Gary Wilson, who should now have a run of club fixtures mixed with their Inter-Provincial commitments.

Thompson finished with impressive figures of 3-21 from his four overs before hitting 9* batting at number three.

“It’s good to get the guys who are international standard back into your team,” said Kennedy.

“It just proves the depth that we have that we didn’t need to rely on either of them and they could have a comfortable welcome back with not too much to do.”

Their experience and quality helps add a real depth to a CSNI side who look like they have most bases covered in their bid to secure a play-off spot.

They’ve now won three league games on the trot after an opening day loss to favourites CIYMS, beating Instonians, Lisburn and Carrick.

Sitting in fourth on 12 points, Kennedy is delighted with the start but knows there are a number of tough tests on the horizon.

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Stuart Thompson made his competitive CSNI debut last weekend. ©CricketEurope

“We have played some good cricket,” he added.

“We even played good cricket against CI and were perhaps unlucky to fade away in the end and our challenge just faltered a bit.

“We’ve come back well and had three good results.

“There are still three tough games ahead in North Down, Woodvale and Waringstown.

“The thing with T20 is that you might think you’re doing well but one bad over can really change and determine the outcome of the game.”

North Down will visit Stormont on Saturday and are a team in equally good form, sitting third on net run-rate but the same amount of points as CSNI and the winner of the game will put themselves in a really strong position for a semi-final spot.

CSNI become the latest team that has to solve the Paul Stirling conundrum after the Irish international made his North Down debut last weekend in their LVS Twenty20 Cup semi-final win over Waringstown.

Kennedy has first hand experience of just how destructive the 29-year-old can be after watching a teenage Stirling smash 150 for Carrickfergus in June 2009 during his time playing at Ballymena.

“North Down are a very, very good side,” he said.

“They’ve obviously been strengthened by Paul coming into the ranks as well but they are a fantastic side even without him, so he has just added a new dimension to them completely.

“I played against Paul a long time ago when he played for Carrick against Ballymena and he scored 150 against us. Fingers crossed he doesn’t do that this time!”

Ross Adair on form, mindset and his Northern Knights call-up

It has been quite the month for Ross Adair.

The 26-year-old finally got to make his long-awaited debut for CSNI in July after moving from Holywood, has scored 129 runs in two Northern Knights practice games and now has been called up to the senior team for their Inter-Provincial Twenty20 campaign which starts on August 20 against the North West Warriors.

It has been a rapid acceleration for Adair who was playing in Section One last season and has still only played four top-flight league games this season.

His talent and brutal ball-striking has been there to see for many years now but with rugby playing a starring role, cricket had to take a backseat and Adair has previously been limited in the amount he can play each summer.

Now retired from professional rugby, he has been able to spend more time on the cricket field with great success.

Adair scored 92 off 38 balls in CSNI’s Robinson Services Cup victory over Carrickfergus at the weekend, smashing six fours and eight sixes during his hour-long stay at the crease as he shared a first-wicket partnership of 156 with Marc Ellison (59*) on their way to chasing 166 in just 14 overs.

“We had nothing to lose so you can go out with a fresh head,” he said.

“There’s no fear. It’s trying to find a line between the fear of getting out and throwing your wicket away.

“I know where my scoring shots are and if the ball is pitched in a certain area I will hopefully try and hit it for a four or six.

“There are some shots I just wouldn’t play and if I did get out to one of those shots I would be annoyed.

“Elly was smoking it at one end so if you have two batsmen going hard at either end, it’s tough to bowl at.”

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Adair batting in a pre-season friendly against Carrickfergus. ©CricketEurope

Adair appears to be a very relaxed individual who likes to keep it simple and doesn’t get tangled up in any sort of expectation or pressure.

The 2020 season has been reduced to solely Twenty20 cricket which has undoubtedly helped bring the best out of Adair, but he says even in the longer formats not much would be different in terms of his approach to the game.

“I was anxious about it to start with because I wasn’t sure how I would get on,” he said of stepping up to a higher level.

“Twenty20 really suits me but even if it was 50 overs, I wouldn’t be changing too much. I would still try and play my shots even if it was 50 overs.

“Sometimes it comes off and others it doesn’t, and that’s just the way it is.

“I think cricket is very mindset-orientated and if you can switch it up and go between formats then it’s even better.

“White ball cricket in general suits me better than anything red ball, which was kind of a pull to playing in the Premier League because you don’t play much white ball cricket in the lower leagues.”

A promotion to Inter-Provincial level came much quicker than even he expected with Adair more focused on securing a spot in his club side rather than looking too far up the pyramid.

His run of performances have left the Knights selectors no option but to pick him and he’s among the contenders to open the batting alongside Paul Stirling in the opening game.

He will be in action on Thursday, playing for a Northern side against their Southern counterparts at Wallace Park before another fixture at Malahide on Monday, which acts as the perfect warm-up for a potential debut.

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Ross Adair. ©CricketEurope

“If I’m playing a sport, I want to play it at the highest level I can.

“That was the same in rugby – I always wanted to get to the highest possible level I could.

“I was just happy trying to get on the Civil team first and foremost because you can’t just walk into a club and expect to play.

“I’m not thinking too far ahead. I didn’t think I would be in the Knights even.

“I just thought I was coming to Civil to hit about in the Premier League for a season and then see where we go.

“I was involved in the Emerging stuff last year but I wasn’t expecting to be involved as much as I have been. I’m happy with how it’s gone and I’ve been really enjoying my cricket.

“I knew I was going to be playing in the North vs South games but it’s a bit surreal looking at the (Knights) squad.

“You’ve got 11 internationals plus four guys who are well-proven at that level and then there’s me.

“With it being a T20 tournament, it’s probably not a bad time to get me in the mix and give me a go.”

A call-up to the Knights means he could be back playing on the same team as younger brother and Irish international, Mark.

The last time that happened would have been in club cricket at Holywood but it’ll be slightly different if they were to share the same field over the course of the upcoming six-game tournament.

“Playing with your brother at any level is pretty good.

“The last time I would have played with him was at Holywood so any chance I get to play with Mark is always a bonus.

“It’s a good drive because the big brother doesn’t want to be outdone by his wee brother! I have to try and keep up with him.”

The sky is the limit for Adair right now if he can continue on a similar trajectory and keep churning out runs with more consistency.

Whatever happens, he will be heading into every game without fear.

“It’s always good to set goals but I’m very relaxed and am a ‘if it happens, it happens’ kind of guy.

“If I’m scoring runs that’s great or if I get out I can go again next week. It’s weird but it seems to be paying off for me.

“I feel like guys who go in without the fear of getting out can go and express themselves more.

“I can get a first baller and that’ll be the way it is but I could come off and get 60 off not many.

“It goes one of two ways and if it comes off you look good and if it doesn’t you don’t look great. It’s a risk but playing with that freedom definitely helps me.”

Northern Knights T20 squad (as first reported by the Belfast Telegraph): M Adair, R Adair, J Cameron-Dow, D Delany, M Ellison, S Getkate, G McCarter, J McCollum, J Manley, J Mulder, R Pretorius, P Stirling, H Tector, G Thompson, CJ van der Walt, G Wilson.

Nikolai Smith puts in another match-winning performance for Instonians

It was again Nikolai Smith that helped propel Instonians towards victory on Saturday as the Shaws Bridge side brought CIYMS’ unbeaten run to an end.

Smith, batting at number eight, came in with the score sitting at 82/6 but proceeded to smash 35* from 18 balls (one four, three sixes), putting on a partnership of 56 with James Hunter (22*) which got Instonians up to what turned out to be a winning total of 138/6.

The 27-year-old was also responsible for helping his side get over the line by three runs on the opening day of the season against Waringstown, scoring 58* that afternoon.

It has been a mixed season for Instonians with victories over CIYMS and Waringstown – two sides that have won the last five Twenty20 Cup’s between them combined with failing to chase 88 against CSNI while they were bowled out for 77 by North Down.

They will fancy their chances of going on a play-off run with the current top four teams now all out of the way and Smith will be key if they are to achieve that.

“The temptation all year has been to push him further up the order,” said captain Andrew White.

“I think he has understood and has been part of the planning in terms of making sure we maximise the opportunities for the younger players so that maybe in a year or two they are in a better place to perform more consistently.

“He has played his part in the victories that we have had and that’s been really encouraging from his point of view.”

Instonians are using this season as an opportunity to promote youth up the batting order with the likes of Jack Dickson getting a chance on Saturday while Oliver Metcalfe, Marcus Poskitt, Ben Rose and James Hunter also usually feature.

White didn’t even bat at the weekend, slotting himself in at nine and he says it’s about giving the younger crop the chance to put what they’ve learnt into action.

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James Hunter batting for Instonians against Waringstown. ©CricketEurope

“Sometimes people say you’re better having the experience in the middle rather than on the sideline, but these guys are old enough,” he added.

“We have 7 players that are 20 or under and I still think the majority of the guys have played enough cricket now where they have to take responsibility and put what they’ve learnt over the past couple of years into action.

“Sometimes you leave it up to them to work it out and at times they’ve responded and others they will come to you saying they should have done this or that, and that’s all part of what we see this year being about.

“I certainly don’t want to be batting nine for the rest of my playing career but this year lends itself to giving others that opportunity.”

James Magee also played a crucial role in the 10-run victory, picking up figures of 3-21 from his four overs, with that burst helping bring CI from 96-3 to 115-7.

“He’s bowling well,” said White.

“He’s one of those guys that is probably under-rated – not by those at the club but around the circuit.

“He went through a difficult patch a couple of years ago but he has won a lot of games for us over the years.

“He’s somebody that I trust to throw the ball to, like all of the bowlers on Saturday.

“There was probably a period where the trust wasn’t there but that’s gained through performances and they are all performing with the ball.

“It’s pretty straightforward captaining in the field at the moment because of their ability to lead when they have the ball in their hand. That has been a big plus for this season.

“Of course anybody on their day can go around the park, but as long as they are clear on what they want to do it makes my job easier.”

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James Magee. ©CricketEurope

There has been a change of wicketkeeper for Instonians this season with Olly Metcalfe taking over the gloves from brother James.

The 19-year-old has been looking to dedicate more time to a role that he carried out in youth cricket and White says he will be behind the stumps for the rest of the 2020 campaign.

“Olly always was a keeper coming up through the ranks and he feels he wants to dedicate more time to his wicket-keeping,” he added.

“James, his brother, is very supportive of him in doing that and they’ve shared the duties a bit at the start of the season but Olly will probably see the season out as our first choice wicketkeeper.

“James is still an integral part of the squad. It’s offering that opportunity to one of the guys who will hopefully be at Instonians for a long, long time.”

White is also Chair of National Men’s Selectors at Cricket Ireland and he watched on with delight as Ireland recorded a famous seven-wicket victory over England last Tuesday in Southampton.

“It was a hugely satisfying way to finish,” he said.

“The key thing from the squad’s perspective is that they have progressed from game one through.

“Speaking to the players, they were disappointed with the way we batted in games one and two but it was a great way to finish the series.

“It was a world class chase and a superb performance because England kept trying to come hard at us and we kept taking wickets.

“Stirling and Balbirnie were world class and we showed that on our day we are capable of beating the big teams, and I suppose it doesn’t come any bigger than England in England at the minute so I’m really delighted.”

Instonians host Woodvale in the Robinson Services Cup on Saturday.

Fixtures: CIYMS vs Waringstown; CSNI vs North Down; Instonians vs Woodvale; Lisburn vs Carrickfergus

Cricket Ireland announce squads for Northern vs Southern Development Series

Cricket Ireland have announced the squads that will play in two Northern vs Southern development series Twenty20 games at Lisburn (August 13) and Malahide (August 17).

Instonians, Northern Knights and Ireland all-rounder Shane Getkate will captain both of the Northern XII sides with Ross Adair, CJ van der Walt, James Hunter, Jacob Mulder, Matthew Foster and Josh Manley also playing at Wallace Park on Thursday.

Mulder and Foster will be replaced by North Down leg-spinner Carl Robinson and Irish pace bowler David Delany for the second game at Malahide on Monday.

Waringstown all-rounder Morgan Topping also makes the squad for the second game, taking the place of former CIYMS batsman Ryan Hunter.

“The Academy & Regional Development Series that was held over the last fortnight was of great benefit to the Academy squad and a raft of Provincial players looking to impress selectors and coaches ahead of the Test Triangle Inter-Provincial Series starting on 20 August, to get 12 games in across Ireland has been really positive,” said Pete Johnston, Academy and Performance Manager for Cricket Ireland.

“The lockdown period – while restrictive – was actually a productive one for those in the Academy, and we’ve already seen the gains they have made in all aspects of their games as the vast majority of them have impressed with their performances since we have returned to play.

“The resilience and drive the guys have shown has been outstanding. I know that Graham Ford was also impressed by many of the bowlers who helped with the build up to the England games and the environment since we have been back training and playing has been excellent.

“The selectors also noted a number of other Provincial players who have also emerged from lockdown in a good place and who were performing very well throughout the series.

Ireland Wolves v Bangladesh A - T20 International

Pete Johnston. 

“The Northern XII v Southern XII fixtures will likewise provide emerging players across all our provinces with an opportunity to press their case for higher honours.

“We expect this to be a highly competitive series – and continue to provide high-level competitive action that these players would otherwise have missed out on due to the cancellation of National Academy and Youth squad tours due to COVID-19.

“The National Selectors met as a group and confirmed the squads above for these fixtures. Selection was based on the performances during the Academy/Regional Development games along with club cricket while also considering succession planning in various skill sets and roles for the future.

“A number of players also narrowly missed out on selection, due to the competitive nature of it and I would urge them to keep pushing on and causing selectors further headaches.

“We also have our eyes on a number of players who are in the process of qualifying, some who have impressed, but not all have been considered for these games due to various strategic and development reasons which have been well thought out and discussed.

“The more high-level competitive action we can provide for these guys, the better it will be for the future of Irish cricket – go back a few months and we were concerned of losing the entire season, but now we are delighted to be able to arrange these fixtures and continue the development of a group of players that will form the core of our future international squads.

“We have really enjoyed working closely with the Provincial Unions on these games and can not thank all their staff and grounds enough for their collaboration towards getting all of these games up and running.”

Northern squads

Northern XII (13 August @ Lisburn) – 2pm start
• Shane Getkate (capt)
• Ross Adair
• Ryan Hunter
• James Hunter
• Neil Rock
• CJ Van Der Walt
• Kyle Magee
• Ross Allen
• Jacob Mulder
• Mathew Foster
• Conor Olphert
• Joshua Manley

Northern XII (17 August @ Malahide) – 2pm start
• Shane Getkate (capt)
• Ross Adair
• Morgan Topping
• James Hunter
• Neil Rock
• CJ Van Der Walt
• Kyle Magee
• Ross Allen
• Carl Robinson
• David Delany
• Conor Olphert
• Joshua Manley

Southern squads

Southern XII (13 August @ Lisburn)

• Stephen Doheny (capt)
• Seamus Lynch
• Jeremy Lawlor
• Greg Ford
• Tim Tector
• Fiachra Tucker
• Rory Anders
• Mitchell Thompson
• Jamie MacNulty
• Theo Dempsey
• Ben White
• Mike Frost

Southern XII (17 August @ Malahide)

• Stephen Doheny (capt)
• Seamus Lynch
• Jeremy Lawlor
• Jack Tector
• Tim Tector
• Fiachra Tucker
• Rory Anders
• Mitchell Thompson
• Jamie MacNulty
• Theo Dempsey
• Ben White
• Mikey O’Reilly

5 thoughts from the past weekend in NCU cricket

Another weekend of NCU cricket is in the books and it was a good one with runs aplenty and the finalists for the LVS Twenty20 Cup both decided on Sunday.

From Instonians ending CIYMS’ unbeaten run to Paul Stirling’s North Down debut, we run through five thoughts from the weekend that was.

  1. Unpredictable Instonians

I asked last week who would beat CIYMS this season and it turned out we didn’t have to wait long to find out the answer as Instonians recorded a 10-run Robinson Services Cup victory against the favourites on Saturday.

Instonians have had a strange season so far, beating both Waringstown and CIYMS, two teams that have won the last five Twenty20 Cup’s between them but have also failed to chase 88 against CSNI and were bowled out for 77 by North Down.

They have a very young side and that means there are going to be inconsistent performances, but if they can put a run of results together now at the back end of the Robinson Services Cup league stage then they could be the dark horse in the play-offs.

Andrew White’s men would go in with the knowledge that they have what it takes to beat any team on their day and with the likes of Shane Getkate in their side plus a number of young stars, who knows what their potential could be.

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Instonians. ©CricketEurope

  1. Great day for NCU cricket at The Lawn

There was a bumper crowd present at The Lawn on Sunday for Waringstown’s LVS Twenty20 Cup semi-final against North Down.

Many would have been there to watch Paul Stirling’s first game for his new club and they got an early show in the blistering sunshine as he smashed 29 from 17 balls before he was caught off the bowling of James Mitchell, who was once again superb.

Stirling then took 3-7 while Ireland team-mate Craig Young rounded the game off with two wickets and Waringstown also had James McCollum back in their side after his international commitments.

Although the match wasn’t necessarily close in the end, it was great to see so many out enjoying what the local game has to offer and the presence of Stirling has certainly gave it a massive boost.

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Paul Stirling batting on debut for North Down. ©CricketEurope

  1. Runs galore at Stormont

It wasn’t a day for the bowlers at Stormont on Saturday with Carrickfergus and CSNI hitting 331 runs between them in 34 overs as the latter ran out victors by nine wickets.

Carrick opener George Munsey showed what he’s all about by smashing 80 from 42 to help set a target of 166, which Ross Adair (92 from 38) and Marc Ellison (59* from 37) almost chased on their own in the space of an hour.

In an extraordinary afternoon of batting, there were 28 fours and 20 sixes between the two sides as CSNI improved to three wins from four matches while Carrick have now lost all four of their opening league games, but they are clearly better than their record this season suggests.

Adair needed to score more runs for his club to further state his claim for a spot in the Northern Knights set-up for the Inter-Pro’s that get underway on August 20 and he emphatically did that, so it’ll be interesting to see who makes the cut for that first game against the North West Warriors at Bready.

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Ross Adair scored 92 from 38 deliveries on Saturday. ©CricketEurope

  1. Cregagh looking in prime position for Robinson Services Trophy success

Just like I questioned with CIYMS last week, there is a similar trend arising with Cregagh and who will beat them this season.

The Ducks are currently unbeaten through five matches (four wins, one void) and their bowling attack is giving teams all sorts of problems right now.

They restricted Downpatrick to 58-7 on Saturday and only one team has got over 100 against them in the league, which was Armagh with 101 all out so every side so far has seemed to struggle.

With their array of spinners and Adam Beattie, Cregagh have an ability to starve their opponents of runs before knocking them off and they are certainly favourites to be top of the league come September.

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Cregagh. ©CricketEurope

  1. North Down and CIYMS double header could be special

With North Down and CIYMS both progressing to the LVS Twenty20 Cup final, it means they will face off twice in a weekend with their league fixture on August 22 and the decider one day later at The Lawn.

It’s unclear if Stirling will be able to play in the final with Northants commitments in the Twenty20 Blast in England but if he can and both teams are at full strength, it could be a very special occasion.

You could have both of Ireland’s white-ball opening bowlers in Craig Young and Mark Adair present plus a number of other Irish internationals such as James Cameron-Dow and Jacob Mulder.

Add in a potential future international in Ruhan Pretorius, the consistency and brilliance of Chris Dougherty, the red-hot form of Alistair Shields, last year’s Premier League Bowler of the Year Peter Eakin, CI captain Nigel Jones who always seems to turn up in big games and much more, we could be in for an incredible couple of days.

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CIYMS are reigning LVS T20 champions. ©CricketEurope

Robinson Services and D&P Cricket Player of the Week – Ross Adair

Ross Adair has been named Robinson Services and D&P Cricket Player of the Week after scoring 92 from 38 deliveries in CSNI’s nine-wicket Robinson Services Cup victory over Carrickfergus on Saturday.

Set a target of 166 in 20 overs after Carrick opener George Munsey struck 80 from 42 balls (five fours, seven sixes), the CSNI opening duo of Adair and Marc Ellison (59* – 38 balls; nine fours, two sixes) put on 156 for the first wicket in 12.1 overs.

Adair’s blistering 54-minute stay at the crease contained six fours and eight sixes as he helped his side pick up a third league win from four games by scoring at a strike-rate of 242.1.

It continues a fine start to the 2020 season for Adair who scored 89 and 40* in Northern Knights practice games while he has also picked up six Robinson Services Cup wickets.

For his performance on Saturday, Adair receives a £50 voucher to spend on equipment at D&P Cricket.

Honourable mentions

  • As mentioned above, last week’s winner Marc Ellison scored 59* in the same game.
  • James Hall scored 49 for Waringstown as they recorded a 53-run win over Lisburn on Saturday.
  • Armagh opening bowler Ben Mackey took a hat-trick in their win on The Mall against Muckamore, leaving the opposition 13-4 before the home side recorded a seven-wicket victory.
  • Ross Bryans scored 50 for Templepatrick as they picked up their first win of the season against Ballymena.

Previous winners

Week One – Sam Gordon (58 and 3-7)

Week Two – Chris Dougherty (80*)

Week Three – Marc Ellison (79*)

Waringstown welcome James McCollum back for weekend fixtures

Waringstown will welcome Irish international James McCollum back for their double-header this weekend.

The Villagers host Lisburn in the Robinson Services Cup (12pm) tomorrow before Sunday’s LVS Twenty20 Cup semi-final against North Down (2pm), also at The Lawn.

McCollum has spent the last few weeks at the bio-secure Ageas Bowl in Southampton where he was part of a 22-man squad selected for a three-game series against England.

The 25-year-old wasn’t involved in any of the fixtures with selectors instead opting for Gareth Delany to partner Paul Stirling at the top of the order.

Due to a mix of international commitments and injury, McCollum was only able to make six appearances for his club in all competitions last season but underlined his class by scoring 140 from 108 balls in the Premier League against CSNI.

He should now get a run of club fixtures with no Ireland games on the calendar for the immediate future and all Inter-Provincial cricket taking place during the week.

Captain Lee Nelson is delighted to have McCollum back and says it will be a massive boost.

“It’s massive,” he said.

“It gives us that bit more depth to the order and obviously his record and ability speaks for itself so it’s great to have him back.”

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James McCollum batting for Ireland. ©CricketEurope

McCollum will be coming up against Ireland team-mates Stirling and Craig Young on Sunday in what will be a hotly contested cup clash.

It will be Stirling’s debut for his new club and Nelson says they will have to take any chance that he offers up.

“You can’t ignore the fact he is playing!” he added.

“We are going to have to try and attempt to at least come up with something.

“He has that much ability that I don’t think anyone can sit down and have a specific game-plan for anyone like that.

“We have to make sure we bowl our best balls and field to the best of our capabilities, and if we do get an opportunity we have to take it.”

One man that could be crucial early on is James Mitchell, who took 4-15 in a comfortable victory over Woodvale last Saturday.

The 23-year-old has started the season in fine form and bowled an impeccable final over in Waringstown’s Robinson Services Cup victory over North Down a couple of weeks ago.

“He seems to be getting fitter and stronger and that seems to be helping him,” said Nelson.

“Every year he seems to add an extra yard of pace and I think he has done that.

“He’s just getting a bit older and wiser. He’s doing really well and we have no complaints.”

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James Mitchell bowling. ©CricketEurope

Waringstown have an exceptional record in the competition and beat Sunday’s opposition in the 2017 and 2018 finals.

They’ve reached the final in every season since 2015 but Nelson knows to maintain that record they’ll have to perform somewhere near their best.

“North Down vs Waringstown games for me are still the biggest of the whole lot,” he added.

“The rivalry from down the years and I’m sure they would say the same that it’s the biggest game.

“There’s never a whole lot in them, especially in T20 cricket, so it certainly builds for an exciting game.

“I would imagine there’ll be a decent crowd in.

“We have always had a good record in this competition and realistically at home, it can be difficult for sides to come and win at The Lawn.

“We want to make sure that we make ourselves as difficult to beat as possible.

“We know they are a very good team with exceptional players in it, but we have to make sure that we make it difficult.”