Cricket: Two wins and Instonians are the champions
Two weeks behind schedule but, if the weather stays fair this weekend, the destination of the Ulster Bank Premier League title will be known by Sunday night.
Instonians, who won the Challenge Cup for the second time in their history last month, are in pole position to win their second league championship. The Shaw’s Bridge side have two games to play — win them both and they are champions.
But a title showdown is guaranteed because even if Instonians, as expected, beat relegation-threatened CIYMS tomorrow they must still beat Waringstown to win the title outright. The Villagers have the incentive of knowing if they win their last game, they will claim a share of the title because, unlike the North West, there is no provision for a play-off in the NCU.
The one downside is that the title decider will be played over 20 overs, as it is a Match 2, and not the full 50 overs.
Instonians have already won one cup final this year, proving they can rise to the occasion in a one-off match when it matters, with their defeat of North Down and they will be favourites to win their first double.
Only overseas professional Divan van Wyk is missing but he has not been around for the last three games and Instonians’ margin of victories have been 177 runs, eight wickets and five wickets as Ballymena, Lisburn and Woodvale have all been brushed aside.
James Shannon returns to make up a formidable top five in the batting order.
Waringstown, after a nine-game winning run, were found wanting, for the second time this season, against defending champions North Down, a 78 runs defeat hardly the best preparation to take to their last remaining title rivals.
But in Kyle McCallan the Villagers have a match winner and with the return of James Hall from Ireland Under-19 duty and professional Tharaka Kottehewa still available, captain Jonny Bushe will have his strongest team on the field.
North Down can also reach 52 points (13 wins) in the table with victories at Carrickfergus in a 20/20 game this evening and at home to Woodvale tomorrow, but know only a Sunday wash-out can give them a chance of sharing of the title.
Their game against Woodvale will have a bigger bearing on the second relegation place with Woodvale probably needing to win just one of their two games this weekend. But, here too, it is likely to go to Sunday when Woodvale host Lisburn because CI, currently two points behind, will be hoping to move ahead with victory over Ballymena at neutral Shaw’s Bridge this evening in a 20/20 game.
Premier League: (4pm) Ballymena v CIYMS (20/20, Shaw’s Bridge). Carrickfergus v North Down (20/20).
Section Two: Armagh v Larne (25 overs, 4pm)
Saturday (11.30am): Premier League: North Down v Woodvale, CIYMS v Instonians (20/20, Shaw’s Bridge).
Section One: Lurgan v Downpatrick (20/20 1pm).
Section 2: Portadown v Armagh, Donacloney v Templepatrick (20 overs, 1pm), Drumaness v Saintfield (35 overs 1pm).
Sunday: Premier League (1pm): Woodvale v Lisburn (20/20), Waringstown v Instonians (20/20).
Section 1: Downpatrick v Muckamore (20/20, 1130), Derriaghy v Holywood (20/20, 2pm), Dundrum v Cooke Collegians (20/20, noon).
Section 2: Cregagh v Armagh, Larne v Templepatrick, Drumaness BISC.