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.
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.
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.
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.
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.