In a week where CIYMS’ inspirational captain Nigel Jones announced his retirement from the interprovincial scene with the Northern Knights, it is perhaps appropriate that Sunday’s Ulster Bank league game is a repeat of the Challenge Cup Final.
The two clubs that Jones is synonymous with are CSNI and now CIYMS – and for differing reasons it is a crucial weekend for both.
Tomorrow, CSNI face Derriaghy knowing that victory will guarantee their survival in the Premier League, whilst at the same time condemning their rivals to a return to Section One cricket next season.
Lose both games and suddenly there is a possibility of the unthinkable and the cup holders are facing a relegation battle.
For CI it is a different scenario. Two weeks ago they were rock bottom with only one win. Now, after four successive wins plus the prospect of two more this weekend, suddenly they can have a real part to play in the league title.
And Jones says he is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
“It’s a bit like when I stepped down from the Ireland team, I was carrying a shoulder injury then and really it all comes down to work life balance,” he said.
“I am enjoying what I am doing with the Ireland Under 17s, I have taken on the captaincy at the club and there is a real danger of burn out.
“The Knights are developing, I was there because I thought I could add something in terms of experience to the young guys coming through, but it is great to see the talent being selected now.
“It may take a bit of time for them to find their feet but I view it all very positively, they just have to tough it out.
“My family are at the age now where they know what is going on and start to ask ‘why does daddy have to play so much cricket?’.
“We have two home games this weekend – two wins, win the rest of our matches, and given that we play both Instonians and Waringstown, we would have to be close.
“I don’t see it happening realistically but given how we started I think a top three finish would be an outstanding effort.
“It would be great to play Waringstown on September 3 with something riding on it, perhaps a joint top finish.
“I recall last year a similar scenario when 19 wickets fell at The Lawn for 120 runs – tension is a wonderful thing.”
And Jones thinks we are now starting to see the best of Justin Kemp and Chris Dougherty.
“‘Kempy’ is coming to terms with the fact that he maybe has to tone it down a bit at the start and then play catch-up,” he added.
“His bowling has been great all year tight at the start and the death, doesn’t drop many catches in the slips either.
“Throw in the amount of time he spends sitting on the roller preparing the wicket and it’s quite a package. ‘Doc’ is back, he has knuckled down and got it going again, we all know what he is capable of.”
Throw in the little matter of 600 plus runs from the skipper, now injury free after a thumb injury last season which he says cost him around two months, and it is fair to say all is well in the Jones camp.
Plan A tomorrow against North Down is to get Pieter Malan cheaply.
Plan B is give him a single and bowl at the other end, but Jones laughed and said: “If that doesn’t work…”