Five NCU weekend talking points

The Robinson Services Premier League made a fleeting return this weekend before it disappears again until the next round of fixtures on June 29.

By Johnny Morton
Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 9:48 pm
Muchamore's Neil Gill in action
Muchamore's Neil Gill in action

Carrickfergus were the big winners with a victory over Waringstown while North Down picked up a third triumph from four matches against Muckamore to maintain their third-placed spot.

Gallagher Challenge Cup holders Waringstown then rebounded with an easy victory over Holywood on Sunday to set up a home quarter-final against Instonians.

Here are five talking points from the weekend that has been and gone.

1. When is summer going to start?

Thinking back to last summer, we were absolutely spoilt with the weather and therefore the quality of cricket that was on display throughout the duration of the season.

The batting tracks that were being prepared with the baking heat helped four batsmen reach 1000 runs and that would likely have been five if Andre Malan had played the last few games of the campaign for CSNI.

I feel sorry for groundsmen who are attempting to give us quality pitches to play on with the current state of the weather, and a brief look at the forecast for this week coming up ahead of the Challenge Cup quarter-finals and Irish Senior Cup second round suggests we are going to get much the same.

Wickets are having to be reused due to the fact nothing else can be prepared with the minute-long gaps of sunshine we have in between downpours, so here’s hoping the sun appears as we get into big matches with high stakes!

2. Is it time for the Premier League to be played with a white ball?

This is something that I have been thinking quite a lot about over the past few weeks and it started towards the end of last season, but I guess it’s time to try and put my thoughts into some words.

If you look at 50 over competitions around the world, the majority of them are played with white balls and coloured kit, which gives it a very modern feel and it’s also conducive to high-scoring and entertaining cricket (well, at least it is in my head!).

I do get the argument that certain players in the Premier League are aiming to play for the Northern Knights and even have aspirations of going on to represent Ireland in Test cricket for which red ball cricket is obviously key, and I also understand that getting coloured kit could be an expense for clubs they may feel is unnecessary.

It’s tradition to play league cricket with a red ball in these parts but while we try and get more people involved and sticking around our sport with all the other various distractions, could a step into modernisation and that excitement help us? I guess it’s worth discussing...

3. Carrickfergus priming themselves for another upset?

While doing my research ahead of the last week’s NCU cricket podcast with Alistair, I was shocked to see that Carrickfergus had only won one of their four Premier League games because of how talented their squad is.

It felt like they had been performing well with overseas professional Jacques Snyman and the likes of CJ van der Walt and Jamie Holmes playing to a high standard, and they showcased exactly what they can do with a big win over Waringstown at Middle Road on Saturday.

Carrick have become a club you associate with seeing in the top four of the league rather than the bottom half, and captain Michael Gilmour will undoubtedly be happy to see his men performing somewhere near their potential and claiming a big scalp.

They travel to CIYMS in the Challenge Cup on Saturday before a trip to Clontarf in the Irish Senior Cup, and if Snyman and Co turn up on either or both days, who is to say they can’t shock us all again?

4. Are Muckamore unlucky to have no points?

The obvious answer to this question is yes and Neil Gill’s men will feel very hard done by to see themselves sitting bottom of the Premier League table after losing five games on the trot.

I watched them for the first time this season at North Down on Saturday and they did a lot of good things with Jamie Rogers hitting 44 and fellow winter signing Steve Lazars also impressing.

Looking back to the start of the season, they lost by three runs to Waringstown before a one wicket defeat the following weekend to Lisburn, and you can’t help but think if they had got over the line in those matches their confidence would have been sky high and they’d be in a much better position to attack the big boys with momentum and a sense of nothing to lose.

Their fielding was below par on Saturday and that will need to improve as the weeks tick by and they’ll need to find a win from somewhere in the league sharp, but they have definitely shown more than their position suggests and have to come out fighting.

5. Stuart Nelson fantastic in match-winning performance

The aforementioned Muckamore might have got something from Saturday’s game if it wasn’t for the brilliant Nelson who batted superbly well at number three for his 51* which proved to be the game-winning knock.

Nelson, who moved to The Green from Cregagh a couple of seasons ago, has been given what seems a permanent promotion to the top order and he has already repaid the faith shown in him by captain Alistair Shields with two league half-centuries.

He batted well for his fifty at Belmont against CIYMS in what was ultimately a tight loss and the only one that has stopped North Down having a 100% record in the league, but his knock this past weekend was even more impressive to me.

Watching his senior partners fall at the other end meant a lot of the pressure and responsibility fell on his shoulders - a test he passed with flying colours.

This could be the season he announces himself to the Union. Watch this space.