Just when Civil Service North thought they had done enough to claim a share of the Ulster Bank Premier League title, the league leaders were last night rocked by a one-point penalty which gives North Down the chance to retain their crown outright.
When the Northern Cricket Union’s top two teams meet in Comber on Saturday, Civil Service North will have only a three points lead and, with four points at stake, a North Down victory would leapfrog them to the top of the table, with one game to play.
The one-point deduction for CSN was for a slow over-rate in the first game between the teams at Stormont last Sunday, which the home team won by eight wickets. However, umpires Paddy O’Hara and Alan Neill reported that Service had taken three hours 16 minutes to bowl their overs - their third offence this season.
Their first ‘free’ offence was actually on the first day of the season, against Bangor, and the second occurred in the Challenge Cup semi final against North Down in July which earned them a £25 fine.
Although both CSN and North Down are also in action on Sunday, they will be expected to win at home to Instonians and Carrickfergus respectively, so Saturday’s clash is now, effectively, a winner-take-all title decider.