One game in and there is a familiar look to the top of the Ulster Bank Premier League table with joint champions Instonians and Waringstown sharing top billing with North Down. But it is the fourth winners from last week that could be the surprise package this season.
CIYMS enjoyed a first day triumph at Stormont, against Civil Service North, and they did it without their overseas player, Craig McMillan (pictured).
The former Kiwi international who played 55 Test matches and 197 ODIs for the Black Caps makes his debut for the Belmont club tomorrow and is backed by his club skipper, Barry Cooper, to make an instant impact.
“I’ll have a chat with him before the match but, basically, he can do whatever he wants. My plan is to bat him at No 3 and use him as first or second change bowler. He will do a good job.”
Cooper also confirmed that the high-profile signing helped him to persuade opening bowler Brian Anderson to make the move from Cliftonville to CI.
“I have known BA for around 15 years and have always tried to link up with him. Macca’s signing was the clincher and he will be another good signing for the club,” added Cooper who has taken over the captaincy from Derek Heasley this season, but expects the former Ireland all-rounder to again play a leading role.
“There won’t be as much pressure on Deeko this year and although there was talk of him going to Waringstown, we have him on board again. I’m expecting a big season from him and it should be a good enough squad to be competitive.
“It will still be hard to touch the top three because Instonians are at least as strong as last year, Waringstown are stronger and North Down as strong but a top four place is definitely up for grabs,” said Cooper who also has slow bowler Ryan Hanna in the line-up this weekend.
“Ryan was playing cricket in Australia and was caught up in the Volcanic Ash chaos so he missed last week’s game, but he can only help us this weekend when we will be expecting two more wins.”
First up tomorrow is a trip to Lisburn, who lost heavily at home to North Down on the opening day and then on Monday, they face Lurgan at Belmont.
Two games we must win if we are to be serious contenders this year,” admits Cooper.
While McMillan’s debut is sure to attract the curious neutrals to Wallace Park, there is a tasty counter attraction at The Green, with North Down hosting Waringstown, the teams who have won the title for 10 of the last 11 years.
Tomorrow’s fixtures: Ulster Bank Premier League (1.00): Ballymena v Downpatrick, Lisburn v CIYMS, Lurgan v Carrickfergus, North Down v Waringstown.
Section One: Bangor v Muckamore, Cliftonville v Holywood, Derriaghy v Armagh, Dundrum v Saintfield, Laurelvale v Woodvale.
Section Two: Academy v Donacloney, Dungannon v Millpark, Drumaness v Cregagh, Larne v Dunmurry, Cooke Collegians v Templepatrick.