North Down captain Ryan Haire says the ball remains very much in Instonians’ court ahead of Saturday’s crunch NCU Premier League game at Shaw’s Bridge.
The Comber men travel to south Belfast four points behind the league leaders, and victory for the home side would take them to within one
win of wrapping up the silverware.
Indeed the formalities will be complete if Inst were to win on Saturday and then tomorrow at Stormont against Civil Service North.
Alternatively, if North Down inflict a third league defeat of the season on Eugene Moleon’s team, the destination of the title will be right back in the melting pot with both contenders having two matches left to play.
Haire said: “It’s a big game for us and a big game for them obviously.
“They have home advantage and they are one win ahead, so the ball is very much in their court.
“But we have kept ourselves in there over the last few weeks despite having had a couple of bad losses.”
Haire admits candidly that this hasn’t been a vintage season for his batsmen who, like many others around the league, have struggled for consistent runs.
He highlights the influence of overseas duo Tim Ley and James Cameron-Dow in sustaining North Down’s title challenge.
“Our bowling has kept us going,” he said.
“In contrast to previous years our bowling has been much stronger than our batting, and Tim Ley and James Cameron-Dow have been brilliant.
“They are two of the top six bowlers in the league in my view.
“If they are on their game we can remove any team’s top order.
“We are due a good batting performance, hopefully our batsmen can hit form and it’s a high-scoring game.”
The toss promises to be particularly influential. Inst opted to bowl first at Shaw’s Bridge against Waringstown last Sunday with disastrous consequences.
Indeed, despite their often public preference for chasing, Inst are unbeaten this season when batting first.
The evidence suggests that posting anything over 200 here is a winning score, but even though North Down have developed a habit of successfully defending moderate totals this summer, Haire too doesn’t rule out bowling first.
“I hope we get a decent track on Saturday but I expect it will favour the bowlers,” he continued.
“It’s hard to tell what we would do at the toss.
“It depends what the conditions are, a wicket like Shaw’s Bridge tends not to get any better but with our bowling attack we are capable of striking early.
“We will look on the morning of the game and decide then.”