JM Sport End of Season Awards: Innings of the Year

Ruhan Pretorius picks up his second seasonal award as his 120* from 56 balls in North Down’s Robinson Services Cup semi-final triumph over Instonians is named Innings of the Year.

In what was the only top-flight century of the 2020 season, Pretorius blasted seven fours and nine sixes as he helped his side set an unassailable target of 179/3 before they went on to win the competition with victory over Waringstown the following day.

It was a fascinating innings in more ways than one as the 29-year-old came out swinging from the very start, edging his first ball for six over third-man and although that wasn’t the intended target, it was that intent that would set up the innings and the fashion he was going to play in for the rest of the weekend.

He had scored just 47 from 57 balls the previous weekend in the LVS T20 Cup final against CIYMS at the same venue and had generally been struggling with his strike rate throughout the campaign, but it was a delight to watch him free the shackles and score fluently in front of a large crowd.

The innings wasn’t without a spot of luck as he was put down on the mid-wicket boundary when sitting on 25, but he was able to make Instonians pay by adding another 95 to his personal tally before the 20 overs were completed.

That score was a reminder of the class and talent that Pretorius possesses as he ended the season as the top-flight’s leading run-scorer with 409 from 10 innings.

This was the highlight of his season and deservedly is recognised as the Innings of the Year.

JM Sport End of Season Awards: Captain of the Year

After a short break, we are back with the 2020 NCU End of Season Awards and today’s category is Captain of the Year.

North Down captain Alistair Shields has been named Captain of the Year after he led his side to the Robinson Services Cup title.

That success was the first time the Comber side have lifted silverware since 2013 and marks another step towards potentially starting to challenge for trophies on a consistent basis once again.

Shields has certainly grown into the captaincy even more over the past season, helping to bring the likes of Paul Stirling to the club and he has also played a role in a couple of other shrewd acquisitions, like Aditya Adey from Muckamore.

North Down also reached the LVS T20 Cup final where they lost out to CIYMS by 11 runs but it was another campaign of progress and Shields was at the heart of it.

That responsibility didn’t take anything away from his own personal performances on the pitch as he finished as the third-highest run-scorer in the NCU’s top-flight, ending with 260 in 10 innings at an average of 32.50.

He started the season in good form by scoring 46 against Carrickfergus and 45 in a league defeat to Waringstown before hitting 59 at The Lawn in their LVS T20 Cup semi-final victory.

Shields has a superb team at his disposal but he has been able to bring everyone together in their pursuit of trophies and got his side over the line in a final after losing out on several occasions in recent times.

That triumph in front of home support at The Green was perhaps a significant moment that could set the platform for them to go on and win even more and it was Shields who hit the winning boundary.

They ended the season with eight wins from their 10 matches across the two competitions and for all that’s mentioned above, Shields is the deserving winner of Captain of the Year.

JM Sport End of Season Awards: Team of the Year

The daily JM Sport End of Season Awards roll on as we announce who wins Team of the Year.

If you’ve missed any of the previous categories, which include Men’s and Women’s Player of the Year, you can scroll back through the website and find them.

Cregagh’s 1st XI have been named Team of the Year after they secured a league and cup double this season.

Entering the 2020 season amongst the favourites for silverware, Aaron Johnston’s side picked up the LVS Twenty20 Trophy in dramatic circumstances as they beat Saintfield in a Super Over.

There was no lack of drama in the Robinson Services Trophy either as they entered the final day of the season sitting in third, but with Derriaghy losing to Cliftonville Academy and Cregagh beating Muckamore, they jumped into first to round off a superb campaign.

They got over an important hurdle this season by winning the T20 Trophy after losing their previous three finals, which will give them confidence that they can perform on the bigger stages and achieve even more success heading into 2021.

Johnston is in charge of a young, ambitious side that will be eyeing promotion to the Premier League and if plans go through for a 12-team competition from 2022 onwards, they would almost certainly achieve that.

Across the two competitions they competed in this season, Cregagh won eight of the ten matches that were contested on the field (also two void fixtures).

They finished with a net run-rate of 0.550 which was ultimately what decided the destination of the league title after tying on 24 points with Derriaghy.

It was a real team effort as Jonny Moore (166), Mark Johnston (149), Adam McCormick (116) and Jay Hunter (111) all passed 100 runs for the season while Adam Beattie topped the wicket taking charts.

With so many people stepping up and producing performances, it’ll likely be that they are once again considered favourites to win Section One when April rolls around, depending on the winter recruitment from other sides.

It was another season of progress for a club that continue to show positive signs from their youth section right up through the ranks.

JM Sport End of Season Awards: Wicketkeeper of the Year

The fourth category of the JM Sport End of Season Awards is ‘Wicketkeeper of the Year’.

North Down’s Jamie Magowan has been named Wicketkeeper of the Year after he played a role in 16 dismissals this season.

Magowan has been a mainstay behind the stumps at The Green since joining from Muckamore ahead of the 2019 campaign and he was in a league of his own when it came to the gloves this season.

His tally of 16, which is made up of 12 catches and four stumpings, is seven better than his nearest challenger Marcus McClean and is 10 more than third-placed Woodvale captain Jamie Gibson.

It is the first season since 2014 that CIYMS keeper Chris Dougherty, who shared duties with David Miller this year, isn’t at the top of the dismissals table.

Magowan was in particularly good form in the Robinson Services Cup final against Waringstown, taking three important catches off the bowling of Paul Stirling and Ryan Haire.

It’s also a sign of the standard of bowling attack he is keeping to with Haire, Ruhan Pretorius, Carl Robinson, Peter Davison and Stirling all in the top 10 wicket takers of the season while Craig Young is the quickest in the league.

Magowan has a justified reputation for being one of the best in the league and he certainly proved that this season, conceding only six byes in 10 matches.

He will be looking for more opportunities with the bat when the 2021 season rolls around and the format returns to the standard 50 overs in most competitions so that he can show what he is capable of on that front too.

JM Sport End of Season Awards: Signing of the Season

After revealing both Men and Women’s Player of the Year over the past couple of days, it is time to decide who had the biggest impact at their new club.

Signing of the Season is awarded to the player that produced the best performances after joining ahead of the 2020 season.

CSNI’s Ross Adair has been named Signing of the Season after he scored 177 runs during the six innings he played for his new club this season.

Moving to the Premier League outfit from Holywood, the 26-year-old slotted straight in at the top of the order, opening with Marc Ellison, who hit 165 runs himself in the latest campaign.

Adair kicked his season off by contributing 30 from 24 balls at Belmont against CIYMS and then scored an important 21 in a tight victory over Instonians.

He also made an impact with his left-arm spin early in the season, picking up six wickets in the first three matches, including 3-11 against Instonians and 2-26 when Lisburn visited Stormont.

The highlight of his season was when he blasted 92 from just 38 deliveries against Carrickfergus as CSNI chased 166 with six overs to spare, winning by nine wickets.

Adair shared a partnership of 156 with Ellison that afternoon and his destructive innings included six fours and eight sixes, which ended as the second-highest individual score of the season behind Ruhan Pretorius’ 120* in the Robinson Services Cup semi-finals.

It was that sort of form that earned Adair his first call-up to the Northern Knights, making his debut against North West Warriors in August before opening the batting twice in the Inter-Provincial Trophy, where they finished second behind Leinster Lightning.

His strike rate of 170.19 puts him comfortably at the top of that leaderboard while he also finished with an average of 29.50 (eighth best).

It was an impressive first season in the top-flight for Adair and it looks like he has all the skills and ability required to succeed across formats at Premier League level and beyond.

JM Sport End of Season Awards: NCU Women’s Player of the Year

We continue with the end of season awards after Ruhan Pretorius was named NCU Men’s Player of the Year for the 2020 season.

Today’s category is Women’s Player of the Year.

Waringstown captain Charlotte Lyons has been named NCU Women’s Player of the Year for the 2020 season.

In what was a historic year for Waringstown’s women’s side where they picked up the Challenge Cup and League double, Lyons was at the heart of their success.

On the way to winning a first Gallagher Challenge Cup, Lyons scored 43* in the semi-final victory over last year’s finalists Muckamore as Waringstown chased 137.

Lyons also contributed with the ball in the final against CSNI at The Lawn, picking up figures of 2-12 to limit the defending champions to 67/6.

In what was a shortened league season, Lyons struck 34 in a six-wicket triumph over Lurgan and then top-scored again in the league final against Muckamore, hitting 38* as Waringstown successfully chased 94 to secure another trophy.

She also played a starring role for the NCU Women’s side, picking up figures of 3-7 earlier this summer against Leinster U17’s.

It is testament to the impact that Lyons has had not just on the pitch but also off it that multiple people got in contact with me to put forward their opinion that she was the deserving winner.

Her work behind the scenes. along with the dedication from her team-mates, has brought Waringstown to another level this season and they’ll be aiming for similar success in 2021.

“From a personal point of view I feel this has probably been my most successful season yet,” said Lyons.

“I worked hard throughout the winter months focusing on a few technical aspects within my game, so it has been great to see it all coming together during competitive games.

“This season has been fantastic for our team. This year, we welcomed some new faces into the squad and we quickly became a close-knit group.

“We are all friends both on and off the pitch which inevitably contributed to our successes.

“I am extremely happy with how the team performed this season against some tough and experienced teams.

“We are a very young squad with lots of learning to do but I believe it’s only the start for what could be a very successful team in the future.”

CIYMS look to take first step towards defending All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup crown

CIYMS captain Nigel Jones is looking his side to put the disappointment of last weekend behind them as they aim to defend their All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup crown, which starts with a semi-final against Donemana at Bready today.

After winning the LVS T20 Cup against North Down two weeks ago, the Belmont club booked their spot in another All-Ireland tournament, which they won last season after beating Malahide by seven wickets.

They come into this game on the back of a Robinson Services Cup semi-final defeat to Waringstown last Saturday in Comber, where they were edged out on fewer wickets lost with the scores tied after 20 overs.

With one trophy already secured, Jones is happy with the season to date, but he and his side are determined to round the campaign off on a winning note.

“We are probably in a situation at the moment where we are fairly happy with how the season has gone,” he said.

“We will probably look back at last weekend where the scores were level but the wickets weren’t and to get knocked out on that probably wasn’t an easy one to swallow.

“We have to take that on the chin and we tried to take the positives from the game.

“There are a lot of things that we didn’t do quite right but there was a lot we did right too.

“As I said to the boys, we have to take that and look forward to Saturday’s big game. We have had a great season so far so let’s keep it going.”

Jones batting in the T20 Cup final. ©CricketEurope

This is a repeat of last year’s semi-final where James Cameron-Dow and Jacob Mulder shared seven wickets before John Matchett scored 82* as CIYMS went on to win comfortably by 10 wickets at Belmont.

CI are on the road this time around and Jones is expecting a more competitive contest than the one from 12 months ago.

“That was a good day for us,” he added.

“We played well at home and we did a lot of good things. They’ll probably admit they weren’t at their best.

“I’m certainly not going into the game expecting us to produce anything like that or for it to be as straightforward as that, but we are pretty confident and clear on what we want to do so I think we will be keen to show our strength again after the disappointment of last weekend.”

The winner of this All-Ireland competition qualifies for the European Cricket League, which brings Twenty20 club champions from all over the continent together for a tournament that is held in La Manga, Spain.

CI missed out on their opportunity this summer following the tournament’s cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic so they have been handed two chances to qualify this time round for the 2021 edition.

If they were to lose today, they will play the eventual winner of the All-Ireland T20 Cup next Sunday at Belmont in a play-off, but Jones’ sole focus is winning it outright and not relying on the back-up route.

“It was disappointing not to get the chance with the ECL earlier this year due to the pandemic but we had to deal with it,” he said.

“For us looking ahead, we would rather just go and win every game in front of us rather than rely on a back-up.

“Hopefully we will get two games of cricket now but we need to make sure we hit our straps on Saturday first.

“Anyone playing for that (ECL) would be pretty excited about it.

“It looks like a cracking tournament and is a way of showcasing Irish domestic cricket but also for the boys, the experience of playing T10 and a chance to win another trophy out there would be great. It’s an exciting opportunity.”

JM Sport End of Season Awards: NCU Men’s Player of the Year

It’s award season once again as we return for our annual recognition of the standout performers in the Northern Cricket Union’s top-flight.

Over the next couple of weeks, there will be a daily category winner and to kick things off is the Men’s Player of the Year award.

North Down all-rounder Ruhan Pretorius has been named Men’s Player of the Year after he topped the run charts with 409 and also picked up 12 wickets in 10 matches.

The 29-year-old scored the only top-flight century of the season when he blasted 120* from 56 balls in the Robinson Services Cup semi-final against Instonians, which included seven fours and nine sixes.

He also contributed 47 in the final against Waringstown, playing a pivotal role to help North Down end a seven-year wait for silverware as they won the decider by seven wickets.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing for Pretorius this season with the South African struggling for rhythm at times, but he came out the other side swinging, ending the domestic season with a strike rate of 108.49.

Adding to his century, Pretorius also scored two fifties and secured the highest batting average of 68.17 as he finished four of his 10 innings not out.

His haul of 12 wickets was the second-highest by a fast bowler behind Waringstown’s James Mitchell (16).

With an average of 13.25 and strike rate of 16.58 while going at under five an over (4.79) in the 33.1 overs he bowled, it was a truly great all-round season for Pretorius.

“Winning was a plan for four seasons and I have tried to win a trophy now for four seasons,” he said.

“The boys this year have done really well and pulled together with good plans and definitely showed some class.

“My season went really well. I think we ended on a high personally and team wise.

“We definitely showed some class in the semi and final and Youngy set the tone with the ball.

“Carl (Robinson) has been brilliant this year with the ball and in terms of stats we all as a team did really well.

“We had a good few men in top 10 batting and bowling which gets you there and makes you compete for trophies.  

“Now it’s just to build on it and go from there for the years to come.”

CricketEurope have produced a StatsZone which is where the above statistics were sourced from. View them all here: https://www.cricketeurope.com/STATSZONES/index.html?NCUpremier

Eight months after merging, Drumaness Super Kings go in pursuit of silverware

Drumaness Super Kings may have only been formed eight months ago but they are already into their first final.

Following the January merger between Drumaness and Belfast Super Kings, the club picked up four victories from six matches this season to book their spot in the Robinson Services Bowl decider against Bangor, which will be held at Upritchard Park on Saturday (1pm).

It has been the dream maiden campaign for captain Mohamed Ismail, who says there is already a family feel and real sense of community at the club.

“The entire team has gelled well within a very short span of time,” he said.

“Every member in the club feels like a family and are enjoying each other’s success.

“On and off the field all are very happy, which we strongly believe is vital for the success.

“It’s not only the players but Drumaness village community members who are making a huge difference with their priceless dedication to prepare the ground for matches & practice sessions.

“Most importantly, their support during match days at home and away is a big plus.”

They come up against a Bangor side that are unbeaten so far this season and made their way into the final after defeating Cooke Collegians, who also hadn’t lost a game up to that point, by 39 runs in the semi-final.

Ismail believes the experience that his side have been able to get under their belt could be pivotal.

“Bangor are playing good cricket this season and definitely are tough opponents to play against in the final,” he added.

“At the same time, we did really well too. The team has gained much needed experience of handling pressure situations and winning the crucial moments in the last two knock-out matches, which is very important for a shorter version of cricket.

“I am sure momentum is with us and hope it will play a bigger part in the final.”

It has been a great start to the Super Kings journey but this is very much just the beginning as far as they are concerned.

Neil Gelston will be returning for the 2021 campaign after spending five seasons with Armagh while the club are investing time and money as they look to improve facilities and create a youth section.

“Management is taking right decisions to move the club in the right direction,” said Ismail.

“We are investing time and money to improve the facility, practice bays, playing square, side screens and much more.

“We are confident that it will help the club move forward and attract youths to start playing cricket at the village.

“It’s not far away, soon we will have our youth teams.

“Mr Gelston coming back home is a huge advantage for the club. We are really excited and already started looking forward for the next season.”

Bangor looking to round unbeaten season off by winning Robinson Services Bowl

With an unbeaten record up to this point, Bangor captain Adam McCusker is hoping his side can end the 2020 season on a high by winning the Robinson Services Bowl on Saturday.

The Upritchard Park side, who will host Drumaness Superkings in the decider (1pm), have won all six of their games this season, including a 39-run semi-final triumph over Cooke Collegians last weekend.

They’ve been in fine form, picking up victories by margins of 10 wickets, 70 runs and 129 runs in Twenty20 cricket, and McCusker has been delighted to see the effort his side have put in during the shortened campaign.

“I couldn’t be happier with the form,” he said.

“The guys have stepped up in every department.

“We prepare to go into each Saturday with the goal to work harder than the opposition in every area, and I think that has shown in our performances so far.”

It’s the batting unit that has been particularly impressive, scoring over 140 on three occasions while chasing against Holywood (91) and Donaghadee (65) for the loss of one wicket.

Bangor were relegated from Section One last season after finishing two points behind Downpatrick, who beat Donacloney Mill on the final day to preserve their spot in the second tier.

McCusker believes his men have reaped the rewards for the hard work they have put in to improve.

“Last season our batting let us down a few times and it’s the one area we have worked really hard to improve, so to score as we have has been really pleasing,” he added.

“The real positive for me is how much work the boys have put in, their enthusiasm to get back to cricket and work hard at it post lockdown.”

The league system should return to normal for next season and Bangor will have their sights set on immediate promotion back to Section One.

First though, their attention is on Saturday’s final and McCusker says there is a positive energy around the club currently.

“The energy around the whole club at the minute is really special,” he said.

“It just feels like we are moving in the right direction and it has been a great momentum builder going into next year, where we fully expect to be challenging for promotion.

“We are really looking forward to Saturday to what would be a perfect end to an already successful season.”