It might be early days in this summer’s NCU Premier League but it already appears that Ballymena and Muckamore are in danger of getting cut adrift from the remainder of the division.
After four full rounds of matches, neither of the local rivals have recorded a victory between them. Neither managed a win in the Challenge of Irish Cups either, and there is an argument for saying they are already in a mini-league of their own.
Ballymena at least showed signs of recovery on Saturday, fighting hard before losing to Civil Service North with seven balls to spare at Eaton Park on Saturday. It was slow going when Simon McDowell’s men batted first, James Kennedy making 43 from 127 balls and professional Yogesh Takawale 29 from 40 on his Premier League debut before he was dismissed by Mark Adair (3-40).
Steve Lazars struck three fours and two sixes in an unbeaten 52 from just 44 balls, but they would have preferred at least 20 more than the 171 for eight they managed.
With Michael Taylor back after university commitments and talismanic batsman David Kennedy close to fitness, Ballymena look more competitive and they chipped away at the CSNI batting despite 56 in 82 balls from opener Jason van der Merwe.
Taylor (3-33) removed Andrew Cowden, Griffin Nieuwoudt and then Charlie Beverland for a breezy 28 as CSNI wobbled but Wayne Horwood saw the visitors home by three wickets in the penultimate over.
If Ballymena could take encouragement from their performance, Muckamore will be less optimistic after a spectacular top-order collapse against North Down. CJ Muir took four for 21 as Muckmamore slumped to five for four and 17 for six chasing a target of 201 at Moylena.
It could have got embarrassing for the home team but Neill Gill (28), Richard Keates (31) and Les Allen (20) at least help them reached the relative respectability of 133 all out.
Earlier Ryan Haire, the North Down captain, struck six fours and two sixes in a top score of 74 from 96 balls. Keates took four for 39 and Allen three for 17.
Instonians, the joint reigning champions, continued their resurgence with a seven-wicket home win over Lisburn. The visitors endured several batting collapses, slumping from 34 without loss to 39 for three, and later 137 for six to 152 all out. Eight of the 10 wickets fell to spin with Zach Rushe (3-22) and Andrew White (3-27) sharing six.
Lisburn were right back in the game at 18 for three as openers Neil Russell and White went cheaply, and professional Imad Wasim was bowled shouldering arms. But James Shannon struck eight fours and a six in an unbeaten 73 from 129 balls to crush Lisburn’s hopes. Shannon’s undefeated fourth-wicket 135-run stand with Eric Layard (37 no) saw Inst home with more than seven overs to spare.