Who improved the most in 2019?

While overseas professionals dominated in the top-flight this season, there were some massive improvements made by a number of local players.

Looking at the statistics, Andre Malan top-scored in the NCU with 1,238 runs while CIYMS spin duo James Cameron-Dow and Jacob Mulder both picked up 47 wickets – the highest total in over a decade.

With the help of those statistics compiled by CricketEurope, we take a look at three players who really stood out in 2019 and improved massively from 12 months ago.

Peter Eakin

In the space of one season North Down evolved from finishing sixth in the Premier League table to being genuine title contenders, and looking at the final standings it was a lot closer than it actually felt through the majority of the campaign.

A big reason for their transformation in such a short space of time was the form of all-rounder Peter Eakin, who scored 366 runs at an average of 45.75 in the Premier League along with 25 wickets in 14 matches.

Averaging 14.56 with the ball – the second best in the league – established him as the premier local all-rounder in 2019 and his form helped propel North Down up the table, and if he can replicate or better that next season, the Comber men will fancy their chances of winning some silverware.

Looking at Eakin’s statistics in 2018, he scored just 109 runs in the Premier League, so he deserves massive credit and all the plaudits he is rightly receiving for turning that around so dramatically.

He also more than tripled the amount of wickets picked up in the league from 2018 (7) and was handed even more responsibility by captain Alistair Shields, opening the bowling on many occasions with the likes of Craig Young missing through international commitments.

Overseas professional Ruhan Pretorius has shouldered most of the expectations for the past few seasons, but with Shields, Eakin, Young and the likes of Stuart Nelson improving in the top order, it makes for interesting times at The Green.

eakin
Peter Eakin batting against Waringstown. ©CricketEurope

Ollie Metcalfe

There is no better batsman in the NCU than Metcalfe at his age group and the progression he made again in 2019 was quite remarkable.

In 2018, Metcalfe averaged 13.75 in the Premier League and scored his 297 runs in all competitions at a strike-rate of 70.63, but fast forward 12 months and his statistics are impressive for someone still developing and making their way in the game.

Opening the batting for Instonians, Metcalfe sits 16th in the runs list for 2019 after hitting 550 runs in 23 innings at an average of 25, but he has also improved his power hitting and is playing with more freedom as illustrated by a strike-rate of 92.44.

An Irish Senior Cup century against Cork County (123* from 103 deliveries) was the highlight of his season while he his other score of over 50 came in the same competition against Rush (53).

He also impressed in the Gallagher Challenge Cup final against CIYMS, hitting 48 while wickets fell around him and he was also able to show that day that he can adapt to different situations, scoring his runs from 73 deliveries to help give his side a chance at the time before they eventually went down by 98 runs.

Metcalfe is a very exciting prospect, not just in terms of club cricket but looking further into the future for international honours.

metcalfe
Metcalfe batting the Gallagher Challenge Cup final. ©CricketEurope

John Matchett

Matchett formed one part of a superb opening partnership with Chris Dougherty this season as the pair set a platform for CIYMS to win four trophies and have the best campaign in their history.

His ability has never been in doubt but this was the season that Matchett really announced himself properly, hitting 838 runs at an average of 33.52 and a strike-rate just under 100 (99.76).

What was even more remarkable was his consistency, registering eight fifties in 28 innings – a number only Ruhan Pretorius could match – while also scoring two centuries.

He was on absolute fire for the last few weeks of the season, hitting two half-centuries in one day as CI lifted the All-Ireland Twenty20 Cup crown and he blasted 72 from 45 deliveries to help his club tie with Instonians to seal another Premier League trophy.

The shortest form of the game is the one where he seems to thrive most, scoring 276 runs in T20 cricket at an average of 55.20 and strike-rate of 142.27 – the kind of form that might make Northern Knights head coach Simon Johnston take action next season.

All those statistics have improved beyond sight from 2018, where he scored 526 runs in all competitions at an average of 25.05.

matchett
John Matchett. ©CricketEurope

*Let me know who you think were the most improved players in 2019 via email (johnnymorton003@gmail.com) or on Twitter!*

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