Tomorrow is just the fourth scheduled Saturday of the cricket season, but already North Down, for so long the kingpins of the NCU, are out of the two most prestigious cup competitions, and have lost their only league game.
To say these are unfamiliar times at Comber would be an understatement.
A remarkable nine league titles between 1999 and 2011 and seven Challenge Cups between 2000 and 2010 and to start a campaign with three successive defeats in 50-over cricket, and two cup exits, has come as a shock to the system.
Captain Marty Moreland, a veteran of all the illustrious trophy-winning years, didn’t expect this, even though repeating last season’s achievements, when they won the Ulster Cup and gave champions Waringstown a run for their money in the Premier League title race, was never going to be easy after the departure of Taimur Khan and retirement of Andrew Sutherland.
“We have lost some experienced players, and we haven’t had any luck between the weather, and an lbw decision in the Carrick game that cost us about 100 runs,” said Moreland.
“Losing Taimur’s 10 overs has been a blow, it shows how important he was, he bowled his 10 overs for very little and we haven’t been able to apply pressure on teams. We have bowled too many four-balls and teams are taking advantage of it.”
To add insult to injury, North Down’s defeat in the Challenge Cup came at the hands of Section One Downpatrick, the first time they have suffered a defeat at the hands of a lower division club in the modern era.
“I think we should have got more than 240 against Downpatrick, but for Nathan Burns at the end we wouldn’t have even got 200, but that total should have been enough,” Moreland continued.
“We didn’t bowl well and we dropped their pro when he was 40 odd. Catches win matches and if we had caught him then we would have won the game.”
North Down will have to do it the hard way if they want to bounce back over the next two weekends. Their opposition at The Green on Saturday is Waringstown, who have had the wood over their old rivals in 50-over cricket for a few seasons now.
Saturday week will see a trip to Instonians, probably the other title favourites.
Moreland feels the two challenges could be just what North Down need.
“It might be the best thing for us to play Waringstown,” he said. “It might mean people raise their game. Waringstown are still the best team in the league and we know that if we don’t play well then we could get hammered. It could be what we need. “