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Fired-up Thompson bounces back for Brigade title tilt

 

By Ian Callender

Johnny Thompson expects to play as a batsman for Brigade today in the first Big Three Long's SuperValu Premiership clash of the season at Beechgrove.

Thompson missed both North West Warriors games this week - through injury - against the Northern Knights, which included the first domestic first-class fixture in Ireland, which was abandoned as a draw after rain washed out the final day's play at Eglinton on Thursday.

But, never one to turn down an opportunity to play against his first club, Thompson will take his place, alongside bowlers Mark Simpson and Garth Burns, in a reshuffled Brigade line-up as last year's top two get a first opportunity to gain a significant points advantage over their rivals.

And Thompson is confident that it will be first blood to Brigade against the defending champions.

"Player for player we are the strongest team in the league, so we should win if we play to our potential. Our bowling is the strongest in the league and with home advantage, used to playing on the bigger pitch, it should be another victory," he says.

Thompson is also excited about the season ahead as they are top of the league and still in all the cups without a professional. Pakistani Faisal Iqbal has had visa issues but is due next week in time for the big double header against Coleraine, the other member of the Big Three, and Instonians in the Irish Cup.

"We've won five out of six -Coleraine in our T20 group, our only defeat - so we have already proved we are strong enough and with Faisal still to come in. It couldn't be a better time for him to arrive ahead of such a big weekend," adds Thompson.

"It's still early in the season but it would be nice to pull away from Donemana, but of course both teams will be looking for the win as it could be a turning point in the season."

Meanwhile, the Northern Knights have made just one change for the next first-class fixture, against holders Leinster Lightning at Stormont from Monday, with CI opening batsman John Matchett replacing the unavailable Greg Thompson.

First up, tomorrow the teams meet in a 50-overs match at Belmont (10.45am). Matchett is also in that squad of 12 to the exclusion of James McCollum.

Lightning will be without George Dockrell for the 3-day game as he is doing exams but as he is replaced by Tyrone Kane it will be one international all-rounder for another, albeit a pace bowler for a spinner.

Teenage fast bowler Max Neville is also in the squad for the first-class fixture, a straight swap for Bobby Gamble who is in the Belmont 12.

Jack Tector, who missed Lightning's first 50-over contest - the victory over the Warriors - comes in to open the batting with Ed Joyce but Leinster all-rounder Gareth Delany, who made his debut in last week's Twenty20 game against the Warriors, retains his place in both squads next week.

Knights (Tomorrow): J Shannon, C Dougherty, A Dennison, S Getkate, L Nelson, G Kidd, Nat Smith, G McCarter, R McKinley, J Matchett, Nik Smith, G Thompson.

Knights (from Monday): as above, J McCollum for Thompson.

Lightning (one-day): J Anderson (capt), A Balbirnie, P Chase, G Delany, G Dockrell, B Gamble, E Joyce, K O'Brien, E Richardson, S Singh, J Tector, L Tucker.

Lightning (3-day): as above except T Kane and M Neville for Dockrell and Gamble.

Belfast Telegraph

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