It was a hugely eventful weekend in the Robinson Services NCU Premier League, with matches taking place over two days and champions CIYMS and Waringstown recording successive victories.
Here are five things we learned from the weekend.
1, Lisburn are going to be no pushovers
When Adam Berry’s men first looked at the fixture list for the weekend just past, they would have earmarked it as pivotal to their hopes for the season. Muckamore and Instonians were two eminently beatable opponents and the newly-promoted team defeated both to move into third place in the table. Saturday was a close-run thing, Lisburn were coasting against Muckamore thanks to a stunning century from professional Faiz Fazal before an incredible late batting collapse put the game back in the balance. Had Lisburn not got over the line they might not have won on Sunday either such would have been the damaging impact of defeat in such circumstances. But instead they have already have two wins out of three and a massive confidence boost for tougher assignments ahead.
2, It could be a struggle for Instonians.
It was a winter of turmoil for Instonians with James Shannon, their talisman, moving to Dublin, and Nathan Smith and Stephen Bunting also departing, but the season has begun even more disastrously than they might have feared. An opening-day defeat by Carrickfergus was followed by two damaging weekend defeats to Waringstown and most crucially Lisburn. Inst weren’t disgraced by Waringstown on Saturday as they chased down a massive total with spirit, but it was in the field where they really struggled at The Lawn. Numerous chances were shelved, there was some dreadful ground fielding and the bowling didn’t look Premier League standard at times. It could be a fight against relegation at Shaw’s Bridge.
3, CIYMS are made of stern stuff
There has been nothing flashy about the Premier League champions so far, but they have got the job done in each of their three matches. Saturday’s game against North Down at Belmont was all about putting down a marker against an opponent which has flexed its muscles in the recruitment market over the winter and should be a main rival for the title. At one stage CI were in trouble at 99 for four chasing 197 and with all the key men at the top of the order gone. But the game swung on the contributions of Jacob Mulder and James Cameron-Dow, whose invaluable innings helped CI get home with four balls to spare. First blood to the champions.
4, Greg Thompson is as good as a pro.
The Waringstown captain recorded a rare failure last weekend when Waringstown limped home against Muckamore but his exploits over the weekend were quite extraordinary. The blistering unbeaten 149 not out against Instonians on Saturday contained a host of remarkable statistics and to follow it up with another century the following day against CSNI beggared belief. James McCollum wasn’t too bad either, one opponent said he had never seen McCollum taking the game to the opposition in quite such a destructive manner. Waringstown’s new Pakistan professional Haseeb Azam was much quieter, he was surely batting too high at number four, but was steady with the ball.
5, Craig Young is a top signing
On the face of it, figures of 1-37 off 10 overs might not grab any headlines, but Craig Young’s performance against CIYMS at Belmont on Saturday gave an early insight into what we can expect from the former Bready speedster. James Cameron-Dow was the CI match-winner but Young was unlucky to see him dropped behind the wicket with the game in the balance. Then when the game looked dead and buried for North Down as CI needed just nine from two overs Young stepped up and conceded just two runs from the game’s penultimate over. It wasn’t enough to clinch victory but it was mightily impressive nonetheless.