Andrew Sutherland will probably never forget the first time he played a cricket match in Northern Ireland.
It was a typical April day. Temperatures were barely into double figures and North Down’s Australian batsman, much to the amusement of his team-mates, was wearing several jumpers and a hoodie.
The years have passed and while Sutherland’s batting has long since adjusted to our slower, less bouncy pitches, he still can’t get accustomed to our notorious weather.
The veteran Aussie is just glad to be on a cricket field. A broken hand ruled him out of the second half of last season and he cut a frustrated figure as North Down just missed out on sharing the title with Waringstown, Saturday’s opponents, and Instonians.
He said: “It’s great to be back, apart from the cold. I’m not a great watcher of cricket and it was pretty frustrating not being able to help the lads.”
Sutherland returned in last Saturday’s comfortable victory over Ballymena but he wasn’t needed with the bat. He returns to a North Down side boosted by Taimur Khan coming back from CIYMS and the Pakistan all-rounder plays on Saturday after serving a one-match ban last week.
With PJ Muir, a teenage South African seamer, replacing Tim Ley, it is a changed line-up from 2013 when North Down lifted the Twenty20 Cup but not the Premier League or Challenge Cup, the two prizes coveted the most at Comber.
Sutherland said: “I think we have a good balance in the team, there’s some good experience and you also have the young lads coming through. We all get on really well, and although I don’t tend to look too closely at the other teams, I’m sure we have the players to do well.”
Sutherland is not too big a student of the rivalry and tradition of the North Down-Waringstown games. The outcome on Saturday has the potential to dictate the course of the season.
“I’m not too familiar with the rivalry between the clubs, and I don’t want to predict the course of the season, I leave that to other people, but the Waringstown games are good to play in,” he continued. “Waringstown are always going to be strong opponents but the likes of CI, Instonians and even Lisburn are tough as well.
“I’m sure Saturday will be a good competitive game, it’s an enjoyable place to go and play.”
Sutherland has been impressed with the standard of Ulster cricket which he says continues to improve.
He added: “The standard is only going to get better, having the Knights there helps and teams have managers and coaches in place. I played mostly 100-over games at home in Australia but the standard here certainly compares favourably.”