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Special Villagers just one small step from their crowning glory

 

By Ian Callender

There is little doubt that Waringstown will be named team of the season when the annual awards are handed out at the end of the year and their big moment should come tomorrow at Wallace Park.

The Irish Cup, Ulster Cup and NCU Twenty20 trophies are already in the Villagers' possession, and victory over Lisburn will confirm them as Gardiner Bros Premier League champions.

Nothing should be taken for granted in sport - least of all cricket - but surely a Waringstown victory against a team already condemned to Section One cricket next season is a formality.

Waringstown had only three wickets to spare in the first game between the teams at The Lawn just two weeks ago, despite chasing only 139, so that should ensure against any complacency.

They went on to lose at home to CIYMS the following day, although the common denominator in both those performances was the absence of professional Shaheen Khan.

The South African had injured himself the previous week and was rested to ensure he would be fully fit to play his part in the Irish Cup final against The Hills last week.

It looks as if it has all worked out perfectly.

Shaheen took two wickets for 14 runs from 10 overs with the new ball - a solitary single coming off his first four overs to immediately put the Skerries side under pressure - and although he made only 11 with the bat, the second of three wickets to fall in the space of four balls, he is capable of turning a match on its head in a matter of overs.

It would be fitting if Waringstown sealed the title - it will be their second in three years - with a commanding performance because they started the season as the team to beat and, although losing two of their first three matches, they then went on a winning run of nine.

CIYMS's victory against Waringstown took them level on points but, although not quite enough to overtake them on run-rate, it was still good enough to force the Villagers to at least tie tomorrow's game to win the title.

Defending champions Instonians were actually in relegation trouble just three weeks ago but, after winning only three of their first nine games, they have won the last three and another against Muckamore tomorrow - the only other game to be played in the Premier League - will promote them to fourth place.

WEEKEND FIXTURES (11.30)

Today (4.30): Gardiner Bros Section One: Derriaghy v Donaghcloney Mill (Match 2)

Saturday: Premier League: Lisburn v Waringstown, Muckamore v Instonians (11.00)

Section One: Armagh v Lurgan, Donaghcloney Mill v Cliftonville, Downpatrick v Derriaghy, Holywood v Academy, Woodvale v Bangor. Sunday: Academy v Bangor (M2), Derriaghy v Holywood (M2, 1pm)

Section Two: Cooke Collegians v Ballymena (Queensway), Donaghadee v Dundrum, Laurelvale v BISC, Larne v Templepatrick, Saintfield v Cregagh. Sunday: Larne v BISC (M2, 12.00), Saintfield v Cooke Collegians (M2, 1.00), Templepatrick v Cregagh (M2)

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