Chris Dougherty has been one of the most consistent performers in the NCU for some time now and not much has changed about that at the start of the 2020 season.
Arriving at CIYMS in 2012, Dougherty entered the current campaign with just under 5000 club runs to his name in that time – a landmark he would have soared past by now.
Add in the over 200 dismissals he has been apart of behind the stumps, you get the picture of just how good he is and how important he is to what CI have built in recent times.
He finished the 2019 season with 916 runs in all competitions (the most of any non-overseas professional) and has kicked this one off with 191 more in four innings, including two half-centuries.
The 32-year-old has only been dismissed twice so holds an average of 95.5. A run machine.
At the heart of everything that the club achieve, Dougherty will again be crucial this season as they look to take another step towards defending their LVS Twenty20 Cup crown on Sunday with a semi-final against Lisburn.
Despite his own success and records, Dougherty continues to give the credit to his team-mates for giving him the platform to go about his business.
“I do feel in good touch at the minute,” he said.
“It’s helped by the team that we have and I know that I can trust my team-mates to do their job and I know that if I do mine, I’ll get the support from them.
“It’s a really good position to be in having the players around me to support the role that I play.
“It’s a good side that we have and I’m trying to make the most of it.
“I’m taking it one game at a time and trying to cash in because you can have one or two failures then that’s it, so I’m trying to make the most of it.”
Dougherty is a batsman that likes to spend as much time in the middle as possible, working his way into an innings, which isn’t usually conducive to success in Twenty20 cricket, but he has made it work.
He has faced more balls than any of his team-mates in three of the four matches so far this season and he backs his ability, knowing if he can bat as deep as possible then it sets the team up for success.
“I enjoy it,” he added.
“Obviously you have to keep the score ticking along and when you get out of the powerplay it does become easier to rotate strike and you get your boundary options as well.
“I probably wouldn’t be renowned as the best striker of the ball but I still back myself to score at a run a ball or more.
“I love batting for long periods. 20 overs is still a long time.
“People think you have to go out there and hit from ball one but I see it as an opportunity to build an innings.
“I just try and bat for as long as I can and I know if I can do that I’ll finish with a good score.”
CIYMS are the only unbeaten team in the Robinson Services Cup after winning their opening three matches and they’ll be looking to sustain that when they travel to Instonians on Saturday.
They have only lost three league games in the past two seasons and although a different format this time round, winning breeds confidence and that momentum can be hard to stop.
Victory in the Twenty20 Cup would see them enter another All-Ireland Twenty20 Finals Day which they won last season and that is motivation for the squad to keep performing.
“It’s a great feeling to have,” said Dougherty.
“We have a lot of confidence but we don’t get carried away with it at the same time.
“We take it game by game and see where it takes us at the end. If we keep winning games then we are going to go far in competitions.
“We enjoy the big games so each game from now on has a bit more on it.
“We will be looking to win on Sunday, get into another final and hopefully win it again.
“The boys are pretty keen to qualify for the All-Ireland T20 and for La Manga so that’s a big motivation for us.”
The Northern Knights have an embarrassment of riches in their side but not many top order batsmen have been performing with the consistency in club cricket that Dougherty has been in recent times.
He didn’t make a single appearance at Inter-Provincial level last season and his last outing came in September 2018, but if the phone calls and head coach Simon Johnston is on the other end, he says it’s something he would have to seriously consider but he hasn’t been giving it too much thought, instead focusing on the job at hand with CIYMS.
“I haven’t thought too much about it,” he added.
“My focus is on CI at the minute and scoring as many runs as possible for them.
“If I do get a phone call then that’s something I would need to consider.
“It’s hard for me to commit to the training and everything. I love playing for the Knights and it was always my goal to play at the highest level possible.
“If they were to give me a call then I would have to seriously consider playing again.
“They have a strong side with a lot of younger guys coming through and I know Johnty is keen to push them through, which is fair enough and it’s great seeing the likes of Harry Tector and everyone coming through.”