Mohammad Siddiq retained his place in the North Down team that faced Waringstown at The Lawn today but the Ulster Bank Premier League champions have not given up on their first-choice professional Iain Robertson.
The Comber club still expect the Kiwi to arrive and see out the season but, for now, they are happy they have a stand-in overseas player who took his first wickets in Saturday’s comfortable 85 runs victory over CIYMS.
The 30-year-old Pakistani, who has been pro-ing in England for the last two years, removed Ireland international Thinus Fourie for two and former Downpatrick opener Neil Gelston in quick succession as North Down defended 233 for seven.
With Fourie the surprise choice as opener, CI batted all their new players in the top three — Barry Cooper, ex-Carrickfergus made 27 — although it was their stand-in pro, Paul Coverdale who top scored with 47.
Siddiq finished with two for 27 from eight overs but it was his former Peshawar team-mate Taimur Khan who was the dominant player in the match. He made the day’s top score of 83 and then had figures of 6-3-6-2 to get the champions off the mark at the second attempt.
Waringstown had it even easier against Bangor who were bowled out for 86, all but 37 of the runs coming from the bat of Mark Hutchinson. He was the only one of the visitors’ top order who survived a five-wicket blitz by Simon Harrison who, just for good measure, then had to see the job through after the Villagers slumped to 55 for four.
Bangor today visited Ballymena in the day’s only other Premier League game and the Eaton Park side will be boosted by their performance against Civil Service North on Saturday.
Nine places separated the teams last season but there were only three wickets between them as last year’s runners-up were taken
to the 45th over before reaching their modest victory target of 135. And Ballymena should also have Ireland international David Kennedy back in the ranks after the expectant father missed the Stormont clash.
CSN professional Kieran Noema-Barnett made a good first impression. After finishing with figures of five for 15, the New Zealander proved he could hit a big ball with three sixes in an entertaining 35.
Woodvale look to be in a for a long season on their return to the big time. Unable to play at home — today’s scheduled game against Civil Service North was called off on Friday — they were bowled out at Shaw’s Bridge for just 112, Paul Robinson top scoring with 31. Earlier, Neil Hamilton hit a quickfire 52, including three sixes in an over, to help Instonians to 209 for eight.
The north Belfast side are not the only NCU team with pitch problems. Carrickfergus have already conceded home advantage in their Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup to Clontarf – next Saturday.