Waringstown's James Hall in good form for Challenge Cup final against CSNI
Waringstown opening batsman James Hall comes into Friday's Challenge Cup final in fantastic form after hitting 175 in Sunday's Irish Senior Cup win over Pembroke.
He also struck two consecutive half-centuries in the previous weekend against CIYMS and Armagh to bring his run tally to 798 for the season.
His opening partner Adam Dennison is the only player with more (804), and Hall believes the two bring the best out of each other in the middle.
“I have felt in good form all season,” said Hall.
“It has been one of those seasons that I’ve felt in pretty good touch every time I have walked out to bat. It’s just I’ve either played a bad shot or got out in ways I shouldn’t have.
“It was nice on Sunday to capitalise on that. Pembroke have a lovely wicket and I’ve always enjoyed playing down there.
“The confidence that Adam and I have going out to bat now is great. We don’t really talk about cricket, we just have a bit of a laugh.
“We know each others games really well and we compliment each other quite well. We have just gone out there and enjoyed it this year.”
Hall’s first taste of the Challenge Cup final came in 2006 when he struck 130 at the age of 17 to help Waringstown beat CIYMS by nine wickets.
He has won the competition three times, and says even though from a personal point of view 2006 stands out, every victory is special.
“We were playing a CIYMS side that were still in Section One, but as a 17-year-old to play in a Challenge Cup final and score a hundred was a massive honour and it was nice to win man-of-the-match.
“Every Challenge Cup final is enjoyable and sticks in the memory, but that one from a personal point of view, was very enjoyable.”
These big games can bring a unique pressure to players, with this the standout match on the NCU calendar and also generates one of the biggest crowds of the year.
Hall felt the nerves in his first couple of finals, but now sets out to just enjoy the occasion.
“In the first few I felt pressure, but now I’m at the stage I want to enjoy my cricket and enjoy the weekends with my mates.
“Everyone in our squad are mates, so it’s like a day out with your friends having a laugh rather than any pressure on the cricket.”
CSNI have won the competition twice in the last four years, but the majority of the current squad will be looking to win their first one.
This current group of Waringstown players are used to competing in the big games, having won the Irish Senior Cup twice in the past three years, but Hall doesn’t feel that experience will give them any sort of advantage considering the players on the opposing side.
“CSNI have a lot of experience with Marc Ellison and Andre Malan at the top of the order, and James Kennedy has played a lot of cricket.
“They have experience. We have been involved in a lot of finals with the Irish Cup etc, so we are used to finals day, but I think there is enough experience in the CSNI team that it doesn’t give us much of an advantage.”