Craig Lewis eyes cup upset
There aren’t many players currently in better form in the NCU than Derriaghy all-rounder Craig Lewis.
The 34-year-old is coming off a remarkable Section One performance against Ballymena last weekend where the seamer picked up figures of 6-10 but at one stage was 6-0 off 7.2 overs!
That helped secure a 10th consecutive league victory for the Queensway club and they will be looking to cause a huge Gallagher Challenge Cup upset on Sunday when they travel to Premier League outfit CSNI in the quarter-finals.
Lewis was named Man of the Match in the previous round against Waringstown after scoring 122 in a game Derriaghy lost on the pitch but they progressed after their opponents fielded an ineligible player.
If they are to have a chance of beating the 2018 finalists, Lewis will likely need to produce another special performance, but going by his season to date, you wouldn’t put it past him.
“It has been pretty good so far,” he said. “It’s been a while coming because for a couple of years there I hadn’t done a whole lot so it’s good to know I still have it!
“The hundred against Waringstown was probably the best one I have scored.
“I’ve been hitting it well and the ball has been coming off pretty decently. We brought a few players in like Chris Dempsey and Jordan Wade.
“Jordy opens the batting and likes to hit the ball, so having him has gave me a bit more competition because I’ve always been the hitter at Derriaghy and he has come in and hits the ball cleaner than anyone I’ve ever seen.
“I thought I would have to remind these boys that I’m still here! Not a whole lot has changed except I play a lot more golf now so maybe that has something to do with it!”
His spell last Saturday surprised even Lewis himself and it’s unlike anything he has produced in his career so far, which has also included playing for the Northern Knights and in the Premier League.
“I actually felt sorry for the Ballymena batsmen at times because the ball was doing a lot,” he added.
“I don’t normally do too much but that day it was doing all sorts and it was coming out well. It was unlucky for the Ballymena boys that they were on the other end of it.
“I’ve taken the likes of 6/12 before but I have never had anything like the 6/0 off seven overs that I had.
“I was thinking what is going on here and then the first run I conceded was a wide and I got a boo from the lads. That’s the first time something like that has happened.”
Big matches against quality sides like CSNI will almost certainly become the norm for Derriaghy next season with them on the verge of a top-flight return for the first time since 2016.
They are eight points clear at the top with another eight matches to play and could potentially repeat their feat from 2007 of going unbeaten throughout a campaign.
Lewis is hoping he and his team-mates can put up a good showing on Sunday and believes it provides a platform to produce their best cricket.
“I always tell the boys it’s a day to put your name on the map,” he said.
“Not a lot is expected from us so if somebody can go out and do something like I did against Waringstown it would be great.
“They are a lot younger than me and they could put their name out there. If we get a few boys doing that then we have a chance but we are under no illusions how hard it’s going to be at Stormont.
“It’s fantastic that we are doing so well again and I would love to be in the Premier League, but the day against Waringstown showed the gulf in class. We know there would have to be a lot of hard work put in our side.
“The boys now know what the standard is because we have a few guys that didn’t play in the Premier League with us so they’ve now seen the calibre of batting and bowling.
“It has only got better since we were last in it – it’s probably gone up three or four times. If that comes, we will see how we go.”
Premier League fixtures (Saturday): CIYMS vs North Down, Instonians vs Lisburn, Waringstown vs Carrickfergus, Woodvale vs CSNI.
Challenge Cup Quarter-Finals (Sunday): Cregagh vs Instonians, CSNI vs Derriaghy, Lisburn vs North Down, Woodvale vs CIYMS.