Shields is eager for North Down to build on fast start
It's all change at Comber this year with a new 50-over captain and no fewer than four signings, and North Down have hit the ground running as they target a return to the top half of the league table.
It is actually six seasons since North Down had consecutive top-three finishes and it's now eight years since the Premier League trophy resided at The Green, but there is enough evidence already to suggest they can get close this time.
They take their 100 per cent record to Belmont tomorrow to face champions CIYMS in the knowledge North Down were the only team to beat CI last season - on the opening day.
Ally Shields is the new skipper, taking up the role in all formats after successfully leading North Down to the T20 Cup final last year, and he is delighted with the new squad's strong start.
"We've a number of new faces but we had a good pre-season and the new guys have stuck their hands up and have already contributed to our two wins," said Shields.
Craig Young was the biggest signing, the Ireland international opening bowler moving from North West champions Bready, and he has already shown his quality.
"Even on the slow pitch at Stormont last Saturday he caused the batsmen problems with his extra pace and is a great addition to our bowling attack," said Shields.
AJ Moor, the brother of PJ who was professional at CIYMS, and the returning Nathan Burns both scored runs on Monday in the T20 victory also against Civil Service North.
"AJ is a keeper/batsman who played in Dublin with YMCA and Balbriggan, but Jamie Magowan, who has joined us from Muckamore and plays for Northern Knights, will keep wicket and chip in with useful runs," added the skipper. "But AJ is a hard-hitting batsman who we opened with in the T20 game so we could stick with that, while we knew Nathan was leaving Holywood and it's great to have him back at The Green."
Shields has high hopes for the season, which continues tonight with a home T20 clash against Instonians before their visit to Belmont.
"We've done really well in T20 cricket in recent seasons, although it was a case of déjà vu in the final against Waringstown last year," he said. "But on paper we are well set up and another win tomorrow will set us up for another good run.
"CI are, of course, a quality side, but on our day we are capable of beating anyone and are just looking for that consistency this season."
North Down and Carrickfergus are not playing their postponed opening league game until May 26, but the other three games have been rearranged for Sunday to give those six teams a triple-header this weekend.
It started last night with a one-sided T20 game at Belmont where CI beat Carrickfergus, with Obus Pienaar hitting four fours and eight sixes in an unbeaten 83 off just 34 balls.
Scores: CIYMS 222-2 (O Pienaar 83 not out, C Dougherty 57, J Mulder 50, N Jones 22 not out) Carrickfergus 99-8 (C van der Walt 20; A Coulter 4-12, E Biggerstaff 2-13, D Robinson 2-16). CIYMS won by 123 runs.
Stormont: Civil Service North v Muckamore - No play.
Weekend fixtures: Tonight (6.15): Lagan Valley Steels T20 Cup: Lisburn v Waringstown, North Down v Instonians
Tomorrow (1pm): Robinson Services Premier League: Carrickfergus v Civil Service North, CIYMS v North Down, Lisburn v Muckamore, Waringstown v Instonians. Sunday: Civil Service North v Waringstown (12.00), Instonians v Lisburn (11.30am), Muckamore v CIYMS.
Section One: Armagh v Bangor, Donaghcloney Mill v Ballymena, Holywood v Derriaghy, Woodvale v Templepatrick. Sunday: Ballymena v Cregagh.
Section Two: Belfast Superkings v Lurgan, Cliftonville Academy v Monaghan, Cooke Collegians v BISC, Laurelvale v Saintfield.
Section Three: Larne v Ards, Donaghadee v Dunmurry, Victoria v Drumaness (11am).
Pakistan 1st Innings 310-9 dec (Faheem Ashraf 83, Asad Shafiq 62, Shadab Khan 55, Haris Sohail 31; T Murtagh 4-55, S Thompson 3-62)
Ireland 1st Innings 130 (K O'Brien 40, G Wilson 33 not out; Mohammad Abbas 4-44, Shadab Khan 3-31)
IRELAND 2ND INNINGS
E Joyce run out 43
W Porterfield c Sarfraz b Amir 32
A Balbirnie lbw b Abbas 0
N O'Brien b Amir 18
P Stirling lbw b Abbas 11
K O'Brien not out 118
G Wilson c Haris b Amir 12
S Thompson b Shadab 53
T Kane not out 8
Extras (1b 18lb 4w 1nb) 24
Total (7 wkts, 122 overs) 319
Fall: 1-69 2-69 3-94 4-95 5-127 6-157 7-271
Bowling: Mohammad Amir 25.2-8-57-3, Mohammad Abbas 25-9-54-2, Rahat Ali 23-3-75-0, Faheem Ashraf 18-3-51-0, Shadab Khan 30.4-7-63-1