Villagers determined to stake title claim by moving joint top
While the AJG Challenge Cup semi-finals take centre stage today, there should be a titanic Premier League clash at The Lawn tomorrow when Waringstown take on leaders North Down.
The Comber side have the chance to increase their advantage to eight points over the Villagers, but a home win would leave them level at the top at the halfway stage of the season.
After a run of three successive defeats, Waringstown have found their mojo again and, after a thrilling two-run win over Muckamore, hammered Civil Service North by 115 runs and last week eased to a victory target of 248 against Carrick with seven wickets in hand.
In between they also stormed to victory in their first defence of the Irish Cup, against Coleraine.
The star turn against the Bannsiders and Carrick was James Hall (91 and 111) and unless North Down get him out early tomorrow, their outright lead is likely to be under threat.
The teams actually meet today in their outstanding T20 game at Comber and a Waringstown victory will book their place in the semi-finals.
A North Down win will keep their hopes of a last-four place alive but they will still need to beat CIYMS in their final game next Friday and hope Carrickfergus can beat Waringstown. That would leave three teams level on 14 points after CI's five-wicket victory last night over Carrickfergus at Middle Road.
They chased down the visitors' 174-6 with four balls to spare, Jacob Mulder hitting two sixes in the penultimate over.
Instonians and Lisburn, who play their Challenge Cup semi-final today, are also involved in a double-header against each other with their Premier League game at Shaw's Bridge taking place tomorrow.
If the defending champions win both their two games in hand - tomorrow is the first - they can also reach the halfway stage on 20 points, as can CIYMS, in what is turning into the most exciting Premier League title race in years.
Leinster Lightning, however, are turning the inter-provincial series into a stroll and they have made just one change to the team that beat the Northern Knights for their 50-over Cup game against the North West Warriors at Bready tomorrow.
The (not so) new face is Ed Joyce who no longer plays T20 cricket, only underlining the strength of the Lightning side.
The Leinster Under-15s yesterday won the Inter-provincial Championship with a facile nine-wicket victory over the Southern XI but there was a thrilling finish to the other game with hosts North West taking second place from the NCU with a last-ball victory in their game at Ballymagorry.
It looked plain sailing for the NCU who needed 60 from the last 11 overs with seven wickets remaining but a superb comeback by North West saw them restrict their opponents to 48 for three from the next 10 overs, and scoring 12 off the last proved a bridge too far with a run-out off the last ball by wicket-keeper Tommy Orr settling the match.
The comeback started in the second half of the North West innings. They were 43 for three after 25 overs but finished on 240 for five with skipper Kyle Magee finishing exactly 100 not out after adding 165 for the fourth wicket with Aiden Logue.
Lightning squad: J Anderson (capt), P Chase, G Dockrell, E Joyce, T Kane, K O'Brien, E Richardson, A Sheridan, S Singh, M Sorensen, J Tector, L Tucker
Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup
Middle Road: Carrickfergus 174-6 (J Holmes 64 not out; M McGillivray 3-23) CIYMS 175-5 (19.2 overs, J Matchett 43, C Dougherty 42). CIYMS won by 5 wickets.
Under-15 Inter-provincial Championship
Ballymagorry: North West 240-5 (50 overs, K Magee 100 not out, A Logue 74, L Dougherty 28; N Doak 2-39) NCU 238-8 (R Malone 76, J Hunter 57, N Doak 24, A Johnston 21; T Harpur 3-38). North West won by 2 runs.
Burndennett: Southern XI 101 (34.1 overs) Leinster 102-1 (14.5 overs). Leinster won by 9 wickets.
Lagan Valley Steels T20 Cup: North Down v Waringstown (12.30)
Tomorrow: Gardiner Bros Premier League: Waringstown v North Down (11.30), Instonians v Lisburn (12.00).