Ewen Thompson, one of the best bowling professionals to grace the NCU, returns to club action tomorrow for Civil Service North.
As CSN’s overseas player from 2006-08, Thompson took 142 wickets including an incredible 57 in his record breaking 2007 season. He is coming back for “one last fling” as a replacement for his fellow New Zealander Kieran Noema-Barnett who has returned home to prepare for next month’s World Club Twenty20s.
When the Stormont club confirmed Thompson would be available for the last six weeks of the season, skipper Nigel Jones was only half joking when he said he hoped Ewen wouldn’t be returning to a relegation fight.
His fears have been realised with CSN still very much in the battle to avoid finishing ninth.
Although Lurgan, 14 points adrift at the bottom, appear doomed — and indeed if they lose at home to Ballymena today and Downpatrick have a shock home win against North Down then their fate is confirmed — there is a still a three-way fight, at least, to the finish to see who joins the Pollock Park club.
Thompson, if he can pick up anywhere near where he left off two years ago, would appear to be CSN’s banker bet to save them.
He can pick up six and seven wickets on his own in a match and his presence could yet have a bearing on the championship issue. His first match, for example, is against Lisburn who may be the outsiders of the trio chasing the title but refuse to give up.
Defeat tomorrow at Stormont, though, could turn it into a two-team race but North Down and Waringstown cannot rest on their laurels. They also must face Thompson and CSN, the Comber side in a game held over because of the Challenge Cup final and Waringstown are due at the international venue on September 4.
However, by then North Down could have all but sewn up the title especially if they win Sunday’s showdown against the Villagers at The Lawn.
Unfortunately, it is only a 20 overs game, the original second game of the season between the teams having been rained off last month but although Waringstown are the only team to have won in the league against Peter Shields’ side they will probably be even more confident of beating them over the shorter distance.
Today: Graham Cup Final (2pm): North Down v Templepatrick (Carrickfergus).
Tomorrow: Ulster Bank Premier League (12pm): Carrickfergus v CIYMS, Civil Service North v Lisburn, Downpatrick v North Down, Instonians v Waringstown.
Section One: Cliftonville v Derriaghy, Laurelvale v Armagh, Muckamore v Dundrum, Saintfield v Holywood, Woodvale v Bangor (Castle Grounds). Sunday: Derriaghy v Dundrum (20 overs).
Section Two: Cooke Collegians v Dunmurry, Cregagh v Larne, Donacloney v Dungannon, Drumaness v Millpark, Templepatrick v Academy. Sunday: Academy v Drumaness.
Sunday: Premier League: Civil Service North v Instonians, Waringstown v North Down (1pm 20 overs).