CIYMS have confirmed the signing of wicketkeeper-batsman David Miller from Muckamore.
Hard-hitting Miller, who will share wicketkeeping duties with Chris Dougherty, scored 452 runs for relegated Muckamore in 2019 at an average of 21.52.
CIYMS now have arguably two of the best wicketkeepers in the union at their disposal with Dougherty and Miller sharing the Dai Jones Trophy for Wicket-keeping at the NCU Annual Dinner last month.
Although Miller opened for Muckamore, it would seem likely he will take a spot in the middle order alongside the likes of captain Nigel Jones and Jason van der Merwe with Dougherty and John Matchett now an established and successful opening duo at Belmont.
CIYMS are coming off the most successful season in their club’s history after they won the Premier League, Challenge Cup, Twenty20 Cup and All-Ireland T20 titles in 2019.
Miller joins Neil Gill (Carrickfergus), Aditya Adey (North Down), Jamie Rogers (Armagh) and Karthik Rajavelu (also CIYMS) in leaving Muckamore during the close season.
A hard-hitting opening batsman, Adair showcased his talent in full last season, scoring half-centuries against Downpatrick (twice), Armagh and Woodvale before smashing 153 against the eventual Section One champions in July.
Leinster side Malahide will have Indian all-rounder Saurabh Bandekar as their overseas professional for the 2020 campaign.
Having been involved with both the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, Bandekar also played for an India U19 side that included the likes of Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja.
A right-arm seamer and middle order batsman, the 32-year-old currently plays for Goa and has enjoyed three stints in the UK.
He topped the run charts in Scotland’s WDCU Premier League last season, scoring 604 runs at an average of 60.40.
Bandekar has a First Class batting average of 23.82 and has picked up 171 wickets in 64 matches.
He replaces Australian Damien Mortimer at the club, who helped Malahide reach the All-Ireland T20 Final last season before losing out to CIYMS.
Captain Fintan McAllister said: “We at Malahide CC would like to welcome Saurabh to the club for the 2020 season. With his wealth of experience and knowledge of the game, we are delighted to have a player and coach of his calibre joining the club.
“He has had two very successful seasons with both bat and ball in Scotland where the conditions and standard are very similar to Ireland. We have a strong crop of youngsters in the club and with Saurabh’s level of coaching experience, it will only help bring these players to the next level.
“The season will be approaching fast come the new year and we look forward to pushing for more silverware this year with Saurabh joining our ranks.”
CSNI have signed Ireland all-rounder Stuart Thompson on a two-year deal from North West side Eglinton.
The 28-year-old was part of the Irish squad that qualified for the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia last month, playing in five of the matches against Hong Kong, Oman, Canada, Nigeria and a semi-final loss to the Netherlands.
An important member of the North West Warriors, Thompson has played in 41 T20’s and 20 ODI’s for Ireland alongside three Tests.
Thompson played in Ireland’s first ever Test match in Dublin against Pakistan in May 2018 and became the second man behind Kevin O’Brien to reach a half-century, eventually dismissed for 53 as the home side went down by five wickets.
He also played at Lords in a historic occasion for Irish cricket against England and picked up the scalps of Jason Roy, Sam Curran and Olly Stone in the second innings.
It is a massive addition to a CSNI squad with Thompson also expected to take on a significant coaching role at Stormont.
He will bolster a bowling attack that will be without Andre Malan and Morgan Topping in the 2020 season.
It also means he will link up with Ireland team-mate and T20 captain Gary Wilson, who returned to the club ahead of last season after a decade in England’s County Championship.
Ireland have a packed schedule in all formats next year, starting with a tour of the West Indies in January.
During the NCU cricket season, Graham Ford’s side have home series against Bangladesh, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Pakistan while they go to England for three ODI’s in September.
With the rescheduled Euro T20 Slam also set to take place next summer and Inter-Provincial commitments, it remains to be seen how often Thompson will get to turn out for his new club.
“It’s great to have Stuart at the club,” said Wilson.
“He is obviously an excellent player and we have no doubt that him moving to CSNI will be beneficial for both of us.
“We are also looking forward to Stuart working with our young players at the club and helping Stephen Dyer and the rest of our youth structure.”
In what is the biggest piece of news so far during this off-season, it has been confirmed that overseas professional Andre Malan won’t be returning to CSNI for a third campaign in 2020.
The South African had set the NCU alight with his performances in both 2018 and 2019, helping the Stormont club reach the Gallagher Challenge Cup final in his first campaign after scoring 940 runs and taking 43 wickets.
Malan was somehow even more impressive last season, topping the NCU run charts with 1238 at an average of 65.16 and again picked up over 40 wickets.
Over those two campaigns, Malan scored eight centuries and 10 half-centuries.
The 28-year-old who captains Western Province in his homeland is still keen to return to the United Kingdom next season at a different location.
Malan has been in fine form during the South African domestic season and took a five-wicket haul against Border on Sunday.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Belfast and at CSNI this past two seasons,” said Malan.
“I made friends for life and spent everyday in awe of the beauty of Stormont and the rest Northern Ireland had to offer.
“I am eternally grateful to each and every person that showed me and my wife love and compassion whilst becoming accustomed to living abroad.
“I am very proud of my performances for CSNI and playing with a potentially season-ending injury (dislocated my AC joint start of June which resulted in a sprained AC joint which has a minimum of 8 weeks required rehab) for more than half of the season hopefully showed my commitment to the team and CSNI as a club.
“I never considered any other options but to return home to CSNI come 2020, but it pans out that I am not in the club’s future plans.
“So at this stage I have to wrap my head around not being able to return to CSNI and being out of a job for next year.
“Hopefully there is a club or two out there that might value my services come 2020.”
CSNI will now have to adjust to life without Malan and Gary Wilson praised the impact he had during his two seasons with the club.
“The club would like to go on record and thank Andre for everything he has done over the past two years,” said Wilson.
“There is little doubt that he was one of the best players in Ireland last year and I have no doubt that he will continue to have a successful career.
“Everyone at CSNI enjoyed having him around. The club are looking to go in a slightly different direction next year with coaching very much at the forefront and we will be looking to recruit accordingly. Andre was superb for us.
“The club would like to go on record and thank him for that.”
Instonians all-rounder Nikolai Smith will depart Belfast later this month for Muscat in Oman as he prepares to meet up with the Italian national side for the first time.
The 26-year-old has been a mainstay in Instonians side since 2013, helping the Shaws Bridge outfit to three Premier League titles and four Challenge Cup finals.
He scored 668 runs in the 2019 season at an average of 33.40 and high score of 106* in the Irish Senior Cup against Cork County.
Smith will leave for the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League B campaign with Italy in Oman next week where Bermuda, Hong Kong, Jersey, Kenya and Uganda all await.
All teams are looking to take one step closer to qualifying for the 2023 World Cup in India, with a second round of fixtures being held in Uganda between 27 July – 9 August 2020.
Italy kick off their tournament, where all matches have List A status, against Kenya on December 3 and Smith explained how it all came about.
“My mum’s side of the family are from Italy so we have had Italian passports for ages,” he said.
“A couple of months ago I got in touch with Robbie Humphries from World Sports Xchange because he initially helped get me to Belfast. He got me in contact with one of the guys and I emailed them.
“They never really came back to me but then came back to me a couple of weeks ago and it went from there. It all happened really quickly.
“They asked me if I would be interested and I said yes. I didn’t know it would all be happening so soon but they said they have a tournament in November so I chatted to my boss in work and he told me to go for it. I’m very thankful for that also.”
Smith has played in five First Class matches for the Northern Knights since making his debut in May 2017.
His last List A outing came in June 2018 and he is excited about the prospect of testing himself in the Middle East.
“The goal has been to play at high of a level that I possibly can,” he added.
“That’s why I was over here playing for the Knights and possibly play for Ireland if that ever came about. This opportunity has come and I’m going to take it with both hands.
“I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know what to expect really but I watched a couple of the teams playing in the World Cup qualifying tournament against Ireland.
“It will be interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.”
Since the 2019 season ended in September, Smith has kept himself busy training with Instonians coach Gavin Rogers and a couple of sessions with the Knights, so he won’t be heading into the competition cold.
“I’ve been with Gavin Rogers a couple of times at Shaws Bridge which I’m very thankful for,” he said.
“He’s been a great help and the Knights started last week so I’ve had a couple of sessions there.
“When we arrive there’ll be a couple of warm-up games so I should have a good bit of cricket under my belt before we start.”
The Knights had a successful 2019 season and won their first piece of silverware since 2013 with Inter-Provincial Trophy success.
Their squad is as strong as it has ever been with eight players starring for Ireland throughout this calendar year, and Smith will have his eye on turning out in the Inter-Provincial series in 2020.
“Every cricketer that’s involved in the set-up wants to improve and get into the Knights,” he added.
“It’s just about pushing yourself to score more runs and take more wickets to force your way in with the weight of runs and wickets.”
Instonians opening batsman Nikolai Smith has been called up to Italy’s national squad for their upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League Group B fixtures in Oman.
Starting on December 3, Italy will be one of six teams present in Oman as they take on Bermuda, Hong Kong, Jersey, Kenya and Uganda as all sides look to take a step closer to the 2023 World Cup.
All matches will have List A status with Italy kicking their campaign off against Kenya at the Al Amerat Cricket Stadium in Muscat – a venue where Ireland played just last month ahead of their T20 World Cup qualifying campaign in the United Arab Emirates.
26-year-old Smith has been a stalwart of Instonians side in recent years and made his First Class debut for the Northern Knights against the North West Warriors in May 2017.
In total, Smith has played in five First Class fixtures and six List A matches with the last coming in June 2018 against Leinster Lightning in Dublin where he scored 40.
Smith scored 668 runs in all competitions for Instonians last season at an average of 33.40 as he helped his club reach the Gallagher Challenge Cup final and T20 Cup semi-finals.
The Italian squad, which also contains Northamptonshire’s Gareth Berg, depart for the competition on November 27.