Neil Russell has backed Rory McCann to be a major influence on Friday’s final - even though the Scottish-based batsman is playing in his first NCU match in two seasons at The Green.
Inst have sprung the big selection surprise by replacing professional Farhad Iqbal, who is ineligible, with the former Ireland international.
McCann, who has been playing club cricket in Edinburgh with Carleton, will slot straight into number three in the batting order behind openers Russell and Nikolai Smith.
It is a gamble considering the 30-year-old’s lack of cricket in his home country, but his selection gives Inst an even more powerful top order on paper, with James Shannon, Andrew White and Eric Layard to follow at numbers four, five and six.
Russell, the captain, said: “Rory is an Instonian, his preference would be to play for Instonians but he works over in Scotland. He has been playing for Carleton over there, he is a top quality players and he has scored a lot of runs for the club over the years. Hopefully he can come into the side and replace Farhad.”
Much of the pre-final talk has been about the CI top order, but Russell would be justified in claiming Inst are every bit as strong in that area.
“We have a lot of dangerous cricketers in there, it’s about us clicking on the day,” he said. “The likes of James and Whitey are Irish internationals and it’s up to myself, Nikolai and Rory to give them a platform. They can then put the icing on the cake. We also have Eric who has produced some good performances since moving down to number six. He is very positive and uses his feet against the spinners.”
Russell doesn’t deny that a reduced-overs match because of the weather could just favour his team. After all, their march to the Premier League title last year included several 20-over victories.
Whatever happens, the captain will not be changing his aggressive approach, even if attacking the likes of Stephen Dunn, Johnny Thompson and Nigel Jones inevitably brings risks.
“I have always kept it simple, it’s a see-ball, hit-ball game, I have not changed in 20 years of cricket,” he said. “It’s about trying to put the opposition on the back foot but it’s not totally gung-ho, my game has changed slightly in that regard.”
As CI, Russell doesn’t limit his admiration to Rassie van der Dussen.
“Johnny Thompson is a really dangerous player, he can come in and take the game away from you.”
Team: Neil Russell, Nikolai Smith, Rory McCann, James Shannon, Andrew White, Eric Layard, Jordan McClurkin, Richard McCarthy, Stephen Bunting, Eugene Moleon, Zach Rushe,