Captains expecting a fine cricket wicket for NCU Challenge Cup final

Teenager James McCollum has been in fine form of late
Teenager James McCollum has been in fine form of late

Both Civil Service North and Waringstown are expecting a fine batting track at The Green for Friday’s Ulster Bank NCU Challenge Cup final.

Comber has traditionally been the best pitch in the NCU for the last decade and more, although it has been more favourable to spin bowling over the last couple of years.

The pitch for the recent NCU Premier League game between North Down and Instonians spun extravagantly but Friday’s pitch has not been used this season.

Groundsman Raymond Moreland expects a pitch with pace, good carry, reliable bounce and little spin.

Waringstown’s Lee Nelson has no fears about conditions. He said: “I think the wickets over the last two years at Comber have been very similar. They have been dry at times but the ball always comes onto the bat and we don’t have any issues there.

“Playing in the interpro games there recently the teams tended to get runs on the board and then squeezed with the spinners. It’s no secret that’s what we will look to do that with our bowling attack. I wouldn’t be worried about whether we bat first or second, it’s the best place to bat in the country, so I’m not worried about chasing, if that’s what we’re doing.

“It’s very hard to restrict teams there and sometimes it’s hard to know what a good score is. There are short boundaries and the only thing that might favour a team batting first is the pressure of a cup final chasing. If we bat first or bat second, we believe we can win either way.”

Nigel Jones added: “If the pitch is a bit slower then you have just to knuckle down a bit more. But there is always a quick outfield and shortish boundaries.

“I’m expecting it to be on the slower side but we have three spinners in our team so we can cover that option.

“As regards batting or bowling first I will be open-minded until Friday, I’m not going to rule out either option. It depends on the track, it could be one of those days to bat second.

Nelson meanwhile believes he has plenty of big-match performers and a mixture of youth and experience.

Teenagers Adam Dennison and James McCollum have been exceptional recently.

“While we have youth and energy, you also want cool heads and composure like we did last year when Kyle made a brilliant hundred. Regardless of whether Kyle has or hasn’t been getting runs, he’s always likely to do it on a big occasion,” Nelson added.

“The two young lads have been brilliant, James McCollum especially. He’s settled in brilliantly, if someone had told me he would get 60 odd in the cup semi-final and then 90 against North Down, I would have bitten your hand off for it.”

There are fitness concerns on both sides, with Waringstown seamer Phil Eaglestone struggling with a back problem and Jones himself has hamstring trouble.

Mark Adair has already been ruled out, but his absence is countered by Waringstown being without Greg Thompson.

The other factor will hopefully not be the weather. Waringstown have been washed out six times this summer. Everyone hopes it won’t be a seventh.