Regan West is the surprise name in the Civil Service North team for tomorrow’s Ulster Bank Challenge Cup final against Waringstown at Comber (11am), the former Ireland slow left arm bowler relishing the chance of a second winners’ medal this season.
When West was forced to quit international cricket with a shoulder injury after the 2009 season, after playing 33 matches and finishing as the leading wicket-taker, it seemed his bowling days, if not his playing days, were over.
But three shoulder operations and two years later he tentatively started a comeback, playing three games in 2011 and two more in 2012. Last year he managed 13 games and also bowled for the first time since surgery.
His non-appearance for the first three months of this season suggested, at 35-years-old, his time was up but after just one game for the 2nd XI, West was included in the CSN team which shocked holders North Down in the final of the Twenty20 Cup.
That was 13 days ago and last Saturday, opening the batting in the Premier League game against Muckamore, West not only scored 65 but, perhaps more significantly, bowled four overs, taking two for 26.
More than good enough to confirm his place in a the cup final line-up.
“I didn’t take any persuasion. It was my choice. I probably shouldn’t be playing but I was missing playing. I actually thought I would struggle to get my place in the team but so far, so good,” says the New Zealand-born all-rounder.
“The bowling on Saturday was a bit of a mixed bag, I bowled one and got another lbw but there was a couple that barely went halfway down the pitch but if I’m called on to bowl in the final I should be ok.”
It certainly gives skipper Nigel Jones another option and although Mark Adair is not available — ruled out for the rest of season with a stress reaction on both sides of his pelvis — it is an attack which can cause the Villagers’ formidable batting line-up plenty of problems.
“Waringstown are certainly favourites, no doubt about that, but that means we can turn up, give it a good crack and play without pressure.
“We are not expected to win,” adds West, who took the last wicket — his third of the match — to win the 2008 final between the teams, CSN’s last success until their T20 win this season.
West is one of four survivors from the Stormont side six years ago — Waringstown have five — but he missed the 2011 final when the Villagers defeated CSN to complete the first leg of a Challenge Cup and Irish Cup double that year.
This time, Lee Nelson, man of the match in the NCU decider three years ago, is hoping to lead his side to a league and cup double, but the Premier League leaders must cope without all-rounder Greg Thompson, who is on honeymoon. Andrew Mitchell comes in to a side which also includes opening bowler Phil Eaglestone, who had to pull out of the semi-final win against CIYMS in the middle of his fourth over.
The Ireland international, however, has been passed fit to lead the attack which is a huge boost for Waringstown although the fact that CSN are the only team to have beaten them on the pitch this season should ensure a classic final as the holders chase a third cup win in four years.
Civil Service North (from): N Jones (capt), R West, A Cowden, J van der Merwe, G Nieuwoudt, C Beverland, C McMorran, S Getkate, C Goodall, A Coulter, J Costain, B Adair
Waringstown: L Nelson (capt), J McCollum, J Hall, A Dennison, S Khan, K McCallan, D Dawson, J Bushe, G Kidd, A Mitchell, P Eaglestone