Key players set to miss out on clash at The Green

Taimur Khan
Taimur Khan

Ballymena and North Down will both be without key personnel for their opening-day NCU Premier League clash at The Green on Saturday.

North Down, one of the favourites for the title, will be missing Taimur Khan, with the Pakistan all-rounder serving a one-man suspension imposed following his time with CIYMS last season.

Ballymena’s problems look much more significant however, New captain Simon McDowell can’t call on new professional Yogesh Takawale. The aggressive Indian batsman is currently with the IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore and won’t be available until the end of May.

Robert McKinley, the young all-rounder who attracted interest from other Premier League clubs over the winter, is also unavailable as he continues his studies at Loughborough University in England.

McDowell, who has taken over the captaincy from James Kennedy said: “Due to player unavailability issues, May will be a difficult month but, once we have everyone available, we will have a competitive side capable of beating any team in the Premier League.

“We also have our overseas player, Yogesh Takawale, joining us straight from the Indian Premier League and we hope he will provide some fireworks when he arrives.

“Being realistic, I think our first objective is to avoid relegation and, outside of that, hopefully we can mount a cup run.”

With Takawale and McKinley unavailable McDowell says opportunities will be there for the likes of Matthew Purse, Jack Gibson and Ricky McNeill. Another young player who could feature is 19-year-old Sri Lankan batsman, Ronaka Ahengamage, who is studying at Queen’s.

The game of the day is likely to be at Stormont where Civil Service North entertain Instonians in a repeat of the matches which decided the destiny of last season’s Premier League title.

Instonians were on course to lift the title outright going into their last two fixtures against Nigel Jones’ men. CSNI won a thriller at Stormont before upsetting Inst in a low-scoring match at Shaw’s Bridge which ultimately handed Waringstown a share of the league.

Inst have significant changes with Neil Russell taking on the captaincy from Eugene Moleon who has retired. With John Stevenson also having hung up his boots, Eric Layard is expected to open the batting alongside Russell. The game will feature debuts for new Inst professional Imad Wasim and Stephen Bunting, who is back at the club following a spell with Woodvale.

At The Lawn Waringstown will hand debuts to South African professional Shaheen Khan and James McCollum against newly-promoted Muckamore.