NCU CRICKET: Crunch time in Premier League

Instonians' Nikolai Smith is relishing their clash with Waringstown. Rowland White / PressEye
Instonians' Nikolai Smith is relishing their clash with Waringstown. Rowland White / PressEye

As we enter the second half of July, games start to take on more significance in the Gardiner Brothers Premier League.

At both bottom and top the road back from defeat gets shorter or longer depending on your perspective.

The stand out fixture is Instonians v Waringstown at Shaw’s Bridge, but any of the other four games this weekend has equal merit.

At the bottom, it doesn’t come any harder for Muckamore who are struggling to find a replacement for Kagiso Rapulana, as they face away fixtures at both CIYMS tomorrow and Instonians on Sunday.

Meanwhile Lisburn host a resurgent Carrickfergus at Wallace Park.

At Comber, joint league leaders North Down “warm-up” for Sunday’s Lagan Valley Steels final against CSNI who are looking to put distance between themselves and the bottom two.

I suspect Craig Yelverton and 50 over skipper Marty Moreland will ensure where the focus must remain.

Back to that clash at the Bridge, there is no doubt that Instonians horror show in last weekend’s T20 semi-final has been firmly consigned to the dustbin of history; this is a different day and indeed team as Nikolai Smith confirmed.

“Absolutely, we must move on,” he said.

“Good news is we are seeing positives on the injury front to counter what has happened to Shane Getkate.

“Stephen Bunting returns playing as a batsman, Robert McKinley is back and bowling; James Magee also plus Andrew White is in the side.

“Ben Rose and James Metcalfe remain but the likes of Ollie Metcalfe and James Hunter return to the seconds, we want to see them performing at a high level there.

“Both games are tough and we need a couple of wins, so we need to be in the right frame of mind.

“There has been a tendency to perform at a high level but equally to plumb the depths, a touch of the good, the bad and the ugly.

“We know we are as good as anyone when we perform.”

Waringstown’s Greg Thompson, also recognised the importance of the weekend, as silverware makes the first appearance.

“Tomorrow comes first it is a big game and I recognise that it will be a different proposition to last weekend,” said Thompson.

“They were missing players, some nursing injuries and perhaps prioritising, having said that it was still nice to have a convincing win.

“I was delighted with the way James Hall and Adam Dennison finished off the game for us.”

For Waringstown the prize is knowing victory will remove Instonians from the league title race.