CI faced with triple test as race for title hots up
The race to complete the Ulster Bank Premier League title on schedule next weekend is, invariably, dependent on the weather but there are confirmed dates for all 15 remaining fixtures that are due to played in the next 10 days.
CIYMS are the busiest team this weekend with a triple header, starting at Ballymena tonight and continuing with home games against North Down tomorrow and Civil Service North on Sunday.
Mathematically they are still in contention to finish top but it would take an unlikely set of results for it to happen and the gap between the Belmont side and Waringstown was shown up last week when Waringstown romped to a 144 runs win.
North Down, level on points with CI, also have four games to play but while their Irish Cup semi-final defeat to The Hills on Sunday was by only three runs, the closeness of the result only made it harder to take and it wouldn't be a surprise if the Comber side failed to win another game this season.
It realistically leaves three teams in contention for the league title and that could be reduced to two if Waringstown beat Civil Service North in the big game at The Lawn tomorrow. CSN, though, have won two of three previous meetings this season, the Villagers' only defeats in 50 overs cricket, and another win for the Stormont side would send them to Belmont on Sunday – the same day as Waringstown host Lisburn – in confident mood.
Coming up on the rear are Instonians, who are hoping to play five games in nine days before their professional Imad Wasim flies home.
Tomorrow they are without skipper Neil Russell for the game against Ballymena, but he will be back for Monday's rearranged 35-over game at Wallace Park against Lisburn, who start their own triple header tomorrow at Muckamore, who must win to avoid an immediate return to Section One.
Meanwhile, Muckamore captain Neil Gill is the latest call-up to the Northern Knights' depleted squad.
The opening bowler has been included in the 12 for next week's Newstalk inter-provincial championship game against North West Warriors, starting on Tuesday.
No fewer than eight players remain injured or unavailable but the good news is that Stephen Bunting, who had to pull out of last week's game against champions Leinster Lightning, is available again and should make his debut.
Civil Service North's Shane Getkate, one of the absentees last week, returns but Greg Thompson and Nathan Waller, who were in the side which drew with Lightning, are unavailable for the Eglinton game. The Warriors have replaced Jason Milligan with David Barr as opening batsman.
Knights squad: A White (capt), S Bunting, J Cameron-Dow, C Dougherty, C Ervine, S Getkate, N Gill, N Larkin, R McKinley, L Nelson, J Shannon, Z Rushe.
Warriors squad: A McBrine (capt), S Thompson, C Young, D Rankin, D Barr, J Thompson, R Allen, R-L Dougherty, J Barnes, E Kemm, S Campbell, G McClintock
Fixtures: Today (5.00): Ballymena v CIYMS (T20)
Tomorrow: RSA Irish Cup Final (11.00) Clontarf v The Hills
Ulster Bank Premier League: CIYMS v North Down, Instonians v Ballymena (11.30), Muckamore v Lisburn, Waringstown v Civil Service North. SUNDAY: CIYMS v Civil Service North, Waringstown v Lisburn
Section One: Bangor v Holywood, Carrickfergus v Lurgan, Derriaghy v Cliftonville, Downpatrick v Dundrum, Woodvale v Templepatrick. SUNDAY: Bangor v Derriaghy, Holywood v Lurgan (T20), Templepatrick v Downpatrick (T20)
Section Two: Laurelvale v Academy, Armagh v BISC, Cooke Collegians v Drumaness, Millpark v Saintfield, Victoria v Donacloney. SUNDAY: Millpark v Academy
Section Three: Dunmurry v Donaghadee, Larne v PSNI, Monaghan v Dungannon. SUNDAY: Cregagh v PSNI (T20)
Long's SuperValu Premiership: Ardmore v Fox Lodge, Donemana v Coleraine, Strabane v Bready, Eglinton v Brigade. SUNDAY: Bready v Donemana, Brigade v Fox Lodge, Coleraine v Ardmore, Eglinton v Strabane
Championship: Bonds Glen v Sion Mills, Burndennett v Killyclooney, Glendermott v St Johnston, Drummond v Creevedonnell. Sunday: Burndennett v Sion Mills
SUNDAY: RSA National Cup Final (11.00): Carrickfergus v Killyclooney (Downpatrick)
Sam Jeffrey Cup semi-final: Glendermott v St Johnston.