Instonians got their season up and running last night with a thrilling seven wickets win over holders North Down in the Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup.
Needing nine off the last over, professional Imad Wasim got a fortunate second run off the first ball, when his partner Eric Layard collided with the wicket-keeper, to keep the strike and promptly hit the next ball for six. Two balls later, he hit the winning run to give last year's joint Premier League champions their first success of the season.
North Down had totalled 145 for eight thanks to Danny Graham's late onslaught. Coming in at No 8 after the home side had collapsed from 68 for one to 100 for six, he hit 42 from just 18 balls with two fours and four sixes.
But Instonians skipper Neil Russell gave his side the perfect start with 45 from 35 balls (five fours and two sixes) in a first wicket stand of 52 with Andrew White who still scored a run-a-ball 43, while James Shannon hit 38 from 29 balls, including 17 off an over from Taimur Khan.
Instonians, who lost their first two league games against Civil Service North and CIYMS, will hope to maintain their winning form at home to Muckamore when the League resumes tomorrow while unbeaten North Down and CSN meet in the match of the day at The Green.
Waringstown, the other team defending the Premier League trophy, renew rivalry with Lisburn which brings Greg Thompson back to Wallace Park to face his former team-mates.
Thompson starred for the Villagers in their league victory over North Down, two weeks ago, scoring 38 and taking three for 22 and he will be relishing a return to Lisburn, where he made 49 in last season's emphatic 88 runs win for the Villagers.
With Waringstown chasing a hat-trick of league wins, the game is more important for the home side who, having lost by the minimum margin to CIYMS on the opening day, will be desperate to follow-up their win over Ballymena, so they don't get left behind the early pacesetters.
CI will be confident of making it three wins out of three when they host Ballymena, less than three days after winning the Twenty20 Cup match between the teams at Eaton Park by 74 runs. Nathan Waller, the now Irish-qualified Zimbabwean, who scored an unbeaten century on the opening day of the season, followed up with 50 from 22 balls on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Northern Knights, the last of the inter-provincial sides to go into action this season, meet up for their first match action on Sunday when they take on the Ireland Under-19 side at Upritchard Park, Bangor.
The Waringstown duo of Phil Eaglestone and Gary Kidd have pulled out so Shane Getkate, who moved to CSN hoping for an inter-provincial call-up, gets his wish with Instonians' Zac Rushe replacing his fellow slow-armer.
The 12-man squad for the Knights' opening game, against the North West Warriors at Coleraine on Monday week, will be selected on Sunday.
Fixtures: Saturday (1pm) Ulster Bank Premier League: CIYMS v Ballymena, Instonians v Muckamore, Lisburn v Waringstown, North Down v Civil Service North (noon)
Danske Bank Senior Cup first round: Sion Mills v Glendermott, Coleraine v Bonds Glen, Donemana v St Johnston, Burndennett v Creevedonnell, Eglinton v Brigade, Ardmore v Bready, Drummond v Strabane, Killyclooney v Fox Lodge
Sunday: RSA Irish Senior Cup first round (12.30pm): Downpatrick v YMCA, Glendermott v The Hills.
Long's SuperValu Premiership (1pm): Bready v Ardmore, Brigade v Strabane, Coleraine v Fox Lodge, Eglinton v Donemana.
National Cup first round (12.30pm: Holywood v Dundrum (LCU), Newbuildings v Balbriggan (at Donemana), Bonds Glen v Cliftonville; North Kildare v Carrickfergus, Rush v Killyclooney.