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CIYMS confirm overseas professional for 2019 season

Premier League champions CIYMS have confirmed that Obus Pienaar will be their overseas professional for the 2019 season.

Pienaar, who will be well known to local cricket fans having spent time with Waringstown, played for Clontarf in 2018, scoring 659 runs in 21 innings.

He also took 31 wickets at an average of 18.52, collecting best figures of 4-16.

The explosive batsman currently holds the record score in the NCU with his 244 which came in the Premier League against CIYMS in 2011.

During that season, he struck 1052 runs at an astounding average of 105.20 which included four centuries and four half-centuries in 13 innings.

The 28-year-old South African replaces Matt McGillivray who spent the last two years at Belmont, helping the club win the Challenge Cup in 2017 and league success in the past season.

Club chairman Richard Heasley said: “We are delighted to sign Obus – not only for his undoubted quality as a player but also as a role model and coach for our youth section.

“We are focusing on providing our kids with quality and sustained coaching throughout the year and Obus, along with head coach James Cameron Dow, gives us a great team.”

Captain Nigel Jones added: “I’m delighted that the club has been able to secure Obus’s signature for the 2019 season – his reputation is far-reaching and rightly so!

“We knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy task replacing Matt as our professional. His time at Belmont was outstanding and we thank him for that.

 “Undoubtedly, Obus’s signing helps us to transition and it also provides us with a proven match winner who will compliment a strong and settled squad.

 “His previous record in the NCU speaks for itself and we look forward to him adding to his story here as we look to challenge on all fronts in the coming season!”

Andre Malan set for 2019 CSNI return

CSNI have confirmed the re-signing of South African professional Andre Malan for the 2019 season.

Malan made a massive impact in his first campaign in the NCU in 2018, hitting 940 runs at an average of 47 (including four centuries) and picking up 43 wickets.

The 27-year-old also played a major role in helping the Stormont-based side reach the Challenge Cup final, and hit a brisk half-century in what was ultimately a losing effort against Waringstown at Comber.

With the signing of Irish international Gary Wilson also confirmed for next season, CSNI will undoubtedly fancy their chances of competing on all fronts.

Malan has been captaining Western Province in his homeland in recent months, hitting two half-centuries in October.

Speaking to JMSport, Malan said: “I am very grateful to the club and Ivan McMinn for inviting me to join them for another season of top Northern Ireland club cricket.

“I am looking forward to being on the field with all of my mates at CSNI again and also looking forward to see the progress made by some of the juniors I have been coaching as well.

“I am also very happy to return to Belfast, the McMorran household and the beautiful surroundings.

“I’m very excited for the 2019 campaign!”

CSNI also recently held their end of season awards, where the club donated £4000 to three local charities – Northern Ireland Pancreatic Cancer (NIPanC), Sport Changes Life and Cancer Focus NI.

Marc Ellison was awarded 1st XI Player of the Year for his 1087 runs at the top of the order, which included three centuries.

Bowler Matthew Foster was named Young Player of the Year after an impressive season that seen him collect 20 wickets.

IN REVIEW: Carrickfergus captain Michael Gilmour reflects on the 2018 campaign

Carrickfergus again finished inside the top four in the Premier League in 2018, ending the season behind CIYMS and Waringstown in third.

Their record of seven wins, six losses and one no result seen them collect 28 points from 14 matches – finishing ahead of Instonians due to having a healthier run-rate.

A first round Challenge Cup exit to eventual finalists CSNI and a second round defeat to Leinster in the Irish Senior Cup meant they didn’t get much of a run going in either competition.

From a player perspective, captain Michael Gilmour top scored with 573 runs in 21 innings, while new signing Matthew McCord took 27 wickets.

Here, Gilmour reflects on the seasons that’s been and looks forward to 2019.

How do you reflect on the 2018 season?

Overall, I think we have to be happy. The main part of that is the finish in the league. We didn’t compete in any of the cups this year, which is something we would definitely love to improve on.

We want to have a couple of cup runs each year while also focusing on the league, but this year it was only the league that was very positive. Next year, we will try and focus on being more consistent throughout all competitions.

You have had a couple of top four finishes now in the league, so it seems you have established yourself as one of the top teams in red ball cricket?

I think finishing in the top four in the league has been the aim of ours in the last few years, and you want to make sure you keep that going.

The fact we didn’t slip away was very promising. At the same time, I don’t think we looked like challengers at any stage of the season. We want to really push on and compete for the title. It’s not very interesting just finishing in the top three or four each season.

At some stage we have to be ruthless and really push on to be competing for the league title.

You beat Waringstown twice this year. Does that show you have the potential to compete for the title?

When you look at how good Waringstown have been this year in all formats, to beat them twice and show that it wasn’t just a one-off gives us great confidence to see that’s the team we have the potential to be.

As I say, I don’t think we are consistent or clinical enough throughout the whole league season to push on at the minute. We definitely have confidence seeing where we are in terms of the standard.

We need to make sure we have a bit more self-belief and push on.

Matthew McCord signed from Cliftonville ahead of the 2018 season. I’m sure you’re happy with how he performed in his first season in the Premier League?

Yes, absolutely. I think he was pretty nervous at the start of the season to see how he would go, but that was quickly put in place.

He started off very well against Waringstown and has just grown in confidence the entire year. He has been one of the main players this season.

His bowling average and his contribution in the overall statistics this year speaks for itself, and I think he has really enjoyed it and he is now challenging for more.

When you get a player like him who isn’t only producing but is striving to get better as well, it’s outstanding for me as a captain to have someone like him in the team.

You scored over 500 runs yourself and got a great century against Armagh. Are you happy with the season you had?

Personally, I am pretty happy with my own performance. Maybe it was the pressure of having the captaincy as well made me knuckle down and focus more on my own personal game.

When you are captain, you try and lead from the front, so as long as I am able to contribute, it’s the least I can do. Hopefully it’s something I can build on to go even bigger next season or at least keep it consistent.

You captain quite a young side, with the likes of Max Burton, Jack Burton and Harry Warke all there. Are you happy with the season all the young guys had?

In terms of kicking on next season, when you look down the list and see you’ve such a young and exciting squad, it fills you with great confidence that we are building something.

When we talk about going on and trying to achieve something, it is a lot more realistic when you have the likes of Max, Jack and Harry coming through, as well as Matty McCord and other young players.

It’s the start of something exciting ahead of us hopefully.

Looking to 2019, what are you looking to achieve?

In terms of improvement from this year, we have to be more consistent throughout all the competitions.

As a young team, we always enjoy playing white ball cricket, and to not go on a cup run in that this year was disappointing.

Hopefully that is something that we can build on for next year.

JM Sport 2018 NCU Team of the Year

Any reader that follows me on Twitter will know that I ran a series of polls to determine a NCU Team of the Year, so I thought it was time I picked my own.

Finding the right balance can be a tough task considering there are a lot of all-rounders towards the top of both the batting and bowling charts.

Also, some players batting positions will have to be adjusted around just to get them in the team.

I suspect we will have a similar outcome to the polls, but here is my attempt.

  1. Adam Dennison (Waringstown)

Dennison had the best season of his young career in 2018, scoring more runs than any player (1335) at an average of 51.35.

The 21-year-old scored four centuries and four fifties, with his highest score of 147 coming in the Premier League against North Down.

His most memorable innings will be the 145* he scored to lead Waringstown home in the Challenge Cup final against CSNI in late-July.

He helped the Villager’s win another four trophies in 2018, adding to the four they picked up in the season prior.

  1. James Hall (Waringstown)

Since 2006, Hall has hit more runs than any player in the NCU (9197), with 1247 coming in the 2018 season (second only to Dennison).

He is now just over 200 runs away from becoming Waringstown’s leading run-scorer of all time having collected 11315 in 345 matches.

Hall scores his runs quickly (strike-rate of 100.66), and he was one of the most consistent in the Union last season, registering nine half-centuries and two hundreds.

The partnership he has developed with Dennison over the past few years is incredible, and it is likely he will break a couple of records when 2019 rolls around.

  1. Andre Malan (CSNI)

Malan had a fantastic first season in the NCU with CSNI, hitting 940 runs and taking 43 wickets before heading back to South Africa.

The 27-year-old helped the Stormont club reach the Challenge Cup final where they were beaten by Waringstown, but with his likely return in 2019, Malan could push CSNI towards some silverware in 2019.

He averaged 47 with the bat, and was one of only two players to hit four centuries, and he only hit below fifty once in all the times I watched him play.

Malan had one of the best strike-rates (24.63) last season, and I expect he will another big season if he does indeed come back to Belfast for the next campaign.

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Andre Malan
  1. Marc Ellison (CSNI)

In his first full season back in the NCU, Ellison scored 1087 runs in 25 innings at an average of 49.41.

It was that kind of form that earned him a call-up to the Northern Knights, where he made his First Class debut in the Interpro Championship.

He was starting to fire in the last couple of games for the Knights, scoring 65 against the North West Warriors and then 64 versus the Leinster Lightning.

Ellison regularly fields in the slips, and took 15 catches last season, proving he has a safe pair of hands to take the edges my opening bowlers undoubtedly get!

  1. Ruhan Pretorious (North Down)

Pretorious ended the season in brilliant form to reach 1000 runs, ending on 1057 after back-to-back centuries against Armagh (188) and CSNI (124*).

The South African had the highest batting average of any player with his 59.28, and he scored his runs quickly with a strike-rate of 111.61.

He also had a good season with the ball in what was a summer for the batsmen, taking 33 wickets with best figures of 5-27.

Pretorious will be back at North Down in 2019, and they will hope the overseas professional can replicate similar form.

  1. Greg Thompson (Waringstown) (C)

Every great team needs a great leader, and that’s exactly what Greg Thompson is.

After winning four trophies in 2017, it couldn’t be easy to deal with the expectations and also having to be alert and on it for different formats and competitions the following year.

Yes Waringstown have a fantastic team, but Thompson proved that he isn’t scared to make big calls – for example, bowling first in the Challenge Cup final.

It isn’t just his leadership that makes Thompson a great addition to any team, it is also his 756 runs at an average of 42 and a NCU-high strike-rate of 124.75 in 2018.

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Greg Thompson with the Twenty20 Cup
  1. Chris Dougherty (CIYMS)

Dougherty again proved this season that he is probably the best wicketkeeper in the NCU, but also excelled at the top of the order to help CI pick up their first Premier League title since 2012.

He had competition for this position from Marcus McClean, but Dougherty takes the gloves having played a part in 36 dismissals and hit 803 runs.

His finest innings came in May against North County in the Irish Senior Cup, dealing with others falling around him to make 122 in a fine victory at Belmont.

Since joining from Bready, Dougherty has assisted in 193 wickets – the fourth highest since 2006.

  1. Nigel Jones (CIYMS)

It’s probably an injustice that Jones, who hit 710 runs in 2018, is batting at number eight, but such is the talent in the top seven there’s not much that can be done.

He has been the best all-rounder in the NCU over the past decade, and had another stellar campaign last season, taking 24 wickets in addition to the runs he collected.

Jones adds something different to the attack, using seam and swing to pick up wickets and he knows exactly what to do in every situation.

He deservedly won his first ever Premier League title after multiple attempts, and it is now his task to find a way of turning CI into an all-conquering side.

  1. Andrew White (Instonians)

Again, White doesn’t deserve to be batting so low, but he is being selected for his bowling ability.

The former Irish international picked up 30 wickets at an average of 16.77, which is the third best of any player to bowl over 50 overs.

His economy was also under four in all competitions, and his best figures of 5-28 came against Muckamore in August.

He also dealt with the array of injuries to key players at Instonians superbly well, so is another source of leadership in the squad.

  1. Gary Kidd (Waringstown)

No player has picked up more wickets since 2006 than Kidd, and he was the premier spinner in the NCU in 2018.

He picked up 45 wickets in 27 matches, with best figures of 5-14 coming in the last league game against Muckamore.

Kidd played a massive role in the Irish Senior Cup final, picking up the wickets of Merrion’s John Anderson and Michael Lewis to set Waringstown on their way to a historic sixth title.

The 32-year-old had an average of 17.18 and a strike-rate of 25.29.

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Kidd bowling in the Challenge Cup final
  1. Allen Coulter (CIYMS)

As mentioned previously, this summer was one for the batsmen, so it shows how well Coulter bowled to pick up 46 wickets.

The tally leaves him as the most successful fast bowler of the last 12 years, and he collected his best figures of 6-6 in 2018 against Downpatrick.

He and Jones have a terrific opening partnership, with the pair perfectly complimenting each others games.

Coulter also had the best average (12.87) of any player, best strike rate (21.11) of any player to bowl over 50 overs and fourth best economy rate (3.66).

*all statistics courtesy of CricketEurope StatsZone

UP CLOSE WITH…James Shannon

James Shannon registered his highest Twenty20 international score for Ireland over the summer when he hit 60 from 35 balls against India in June.

The 28-year-old has proven to be one of the very best players in the Interprovincial system over the past few years, and is the Northern Knights captain.

Here, Shannon reveals the best player he has played with and against, favourite ground and much more.

UP CLOSE WITH…Adam Dennison

Waringstown opening batsman Adam Dennison was the standout performer this year, hitting a NCU-high 1335 runs at an average of 51.35.

He hit a record 145* to help his side win their first Challenge Cup trophy since 2013 – one of four competitions won by the Villager’s in 2018.

The 21-year-old has formed a magnificent opening partnership with James Hall, who also surpassed the 1000-run mark (1247).

Dennison and Andre Malan were the only two players to hit four centuries, with Dennison’s highest score of 147 coming against North Down a week after his Challenge Cup heroics.

Here, he reveals the best player he has played with and against, favourite ground and much more.

First cricket memory?

Watching my dad play cricket at Millpark at a very young age.

Highest ever score?

206 (Northern Knights vs North West Warriors)

Best figures?

1-1 off 1 against North Down. Got Ruhan out then Greg took me off.

Best player you’ve played with?

Pat Cummins (NCU academy game against MCC)

Best player you’ve played against?

Rashid Khan (U19 World Cup warm up)

Best piece of advice you’ve ever got?

Jonty (Simon Johnston) always told us to just relax and express yourself, and have some fun..

Favourite match you’ve been involved in?

Game that stands out was 2015 Irish Cup quarter-final at Clontarf. We got 320ish and they very nearly chased it..

Favourite sport except cricket?

Has to be football. Enjoy winters off watching Big Andy Mitchell at Glenavon.

Favourite ground?

I’ll be biased and say The Lawn, however Comber is a close second.

IN REVIEW: CSNI captain James Kennedy happy with 2018, but wants more consistency next year

CSNI captain James Kennedy is looking for his side to find more consistency in 2019.

The Stormont-based side reached the Challenge Cup final and Twenty20 Cup semi-final, but lost out on both occasions to Waringstown and North Down respectively.

They didn’t quite translate that form into the Premier League, and their poor start meant that it was decided pretty early on that they wouldn’t be challenging for the title.

A resurgence in the middle helped them move into third for a time, but they finished in 5th with a record of 6 wins, 7 losses and 1 no result from their 14 matches.

Here, Kennedy reflects on 2018, praises his star performers and sets out what he wants to achieve next year.

That’s another season over. How do you reflect on 2018?

There were a lot of positives that we can take into 2019. I’m very happy with how our Challenge Cup run went, but obviously disappointed we didn’t get over the line in the final. It’s been well-documented that we are just glad Grum (Graeme McCarter) managed to get through that game and get what was required. Hopefully we will have him fighting fit for next year which would help us as well.

In the league, we were slightly disappointed with the start we had. Throughout the course of the season, we lost four or five games that we probably should have won. Maybe we made bad choices at the time, or maybe some naivety.

I felt as the season went on that our younger players started to develop and learn, and hopefully they are in a better position going into next year.

You had Andre Malan in this year and he turned out to be one of the best players in the league. I’m sure you’re delighted with what you found in him?

Andre was brilliant. He wasn’t just brilliant on the pitch – that record speaks for itself. He did damage with the bat and ball, but he was just brilliant in the changing room. He was a great guy who got along with everyone, and we couldn’t have asked for more.

Hopefully he will be back next year as well, and will have an even better season than the one he has just had.

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Andre Malan

Marc Ellison also hit over 1000 runs. How important was he?

Elly is a superb player. We are running out of superlatives for him.

The argument can be that Elly and Andre did most of the work, and the rest of us need to step up and raise our game by another couple hundred runs. There was a bit of a tinkering period this year. We played around with the batting order to see who should go where.

We have learned a lot of things about a lot of people, and hopefully next year we will have something a bit more stable and will be able to support Elly and Andre much more.

The likes of Morgan Topping and Matthew Foster had good seasons. Are you expecting your array of young players will be even better with more experience?

Andre and Elly are the two guys that everyone will come away talking about because of the seasons they had, but our young guys developed so well.

Matty Foster and Archie (Johnston) were in the team for the whole season, and Matty in particular had a fantastic season. He could have bowled his 10 overs every week if it wasn’t for the ECB rule that he can only have seven at the start. He had a super season.

Archie made the gloves his own and hit a nice 50 against Instonians. The guys that came in like Morgan and Arny batted very well, and will hopefully push on next season now that they have more experience in the Premier League.

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Foster bowling against Carrickfergus

Looking to 2019, what are the goals?

CSNI for years have been known as a cup team, and we are a dangerous proposition for anyone on our day, but it’s just trying to find that consistency and get away from the tag that we are a cup team.

I believe that we can be more than that. We just have to raise our games for every single game, rather than the cup games that we have a good record in. It would be great if we can take that into the league and see if we can push up a bit.

There were a few games that we definitely should have won but lost, and that would have put us in a higher standing in the league if we got over the line. We are looking to win those silly games that we lost, and we will be a lot higher in the league.