A fantastic 107 from overseas professional Ruhan Pretorius helped North Down to a four wicket Robinson Services Premier League win over CSNI at Stormont on Saturday.
CSNI captain James Kennedy elected to bat after winning the toss on a sunny afternoon and it looked like a brilliant decision when Marc Ellison started in fine fashion, stroking boundaries at will.
Kennedy would be the first man to go after edging Pretorius behind to Jamie Magowan, who was one of three players making their North Down debut, but that brought Andre Malan to the crease and alongside Ellison, the South African began to put the home side in a strong position.
The pair were two of the standout stars last season and even after one match of the 2019 campaign it looks like that is going to be the case once again and Ellison reached his half-century in the 15th over.
Ellison has had a brilliant start to the campaign after also hitting two fifties in La Manga during the recent Interprovincial series for the Northern Knights.
And it will be interesting to see if he can keep that sort of form going over the coming weeks and months.
Shortly after bringing up their 100 partnership, Ellison had to depart for 68 as he was trapped LBW by Carl Robinson, who also dismissed Morgan Topping in his next over to suddenly leave CSNI 127-3.
Things got even worse for the home side when Aaron Wright edged Craig Young behind to give the Irish international his first North Down wicket, and the former Bready man was unlucky not to get another in a fiery spell after Malan was dropped at fine-leg on 47.
Graeme McCarter steadied the ship with a much-needed 32 and Malan would go on to sufficiently punish North Down by reaching 88 before being dismissed in the 49th over as CSNI finished 231/7.
North Down’s run chase got off to the worst possible start when McCarter dismissed both Nathan Burns and Stuart Nelson to leave the visitors 7/2, and the Knights paceman would have a third when the unlucky Daniel Graham edged behind to Archie Johnston.
A crucial moment in the match came when Pretorius was dropped off the bowling of McCarter when on four, and shortly after passing his half-century.
“He was put down again at short third-man while reverse sweeping.
Captain Alistair Shields was playing a pivotal part in the run chase after coming to the crease at a difficult time, and he passed 50 in the 36th over as North Down were cruising at 173-3.
Pretorius reached his century in swashbuckling fashion after crashing a massive six down the ground before thrashing a four through the off-side much to the delight of his team-mates who stood to show their appreciation for a special innings.
Their partnership was broke on 177 when Shields was bowled by Malan for 71 and when Pretorius followed shortly after for a glorious 107, some nerves would have crept in to the Comber men’s camp, but Ryan Haire settled that and finished the game with a massive six.
After a poor league campaign in 2018, North Down will be delighted with an opening day victory over a strong CSNI side, and Shields will be particularly ecstatic with the way his team bounced back from some early adversity to comfortably win in the end.
CSNI will feel like it is one that got away after taking three early wickets and some sloppy fielding stopped them from adding even more pressure to their opponents and they’ll be looking to bounce straight back against a good Carrickfergus side next weekend.