Johnny Morton (News Letter)
CIYMS and Instonians will square off for the first time since last season’s Challenge Cup final in a Premier League fixture at Belmont.
The pair also met in the quarter-finals of the Irish Senior Cup in 2017, where Instonians won by 114 runs.
The Shaw’s Bridge outfit will be without fast bowler Nathan Smith, who was included in Ireland’s inaugural Test squad against Pakistan, after the 22-year-old suffered a side strain.
Captain Andrew White says it is a massive blow losing someone who is such a vital member of the team.
“It is one of those injuries that is very hard to put a timeline on,” said White. “Twelve weeks has been mentioned initially, but hopefully he responds to treatment well.
“There is no doubt he is going to be out for a considerable period of time. “It is one of those things that happens in cricket, especially to a fast bowler, and we are looking forward to Robert McKinley returning as well and hopefully he will bring an added edge to our bowling attack.”
Instonians sit second in the league table having picked up two wins from three games, with their sole loss coming in a spirited run chase against Waringstown. T
he former Ireland international says he is happy with the start his side have made, especially with the injury setbacks they have encountered.
“We were disappointed not to chase down the 300 against Waringstown considering we were in a strong position,” he added. “For a large part of the second innings we were favourites, so it was disappointing not to finish with a win.
“Two from three isn’t a bad start to the league considering the injuries we have had as well.”
White has started the season in superb form, scoring half-centuries against Waringstown and CSNI, but he gives credit to the top order for laying the foundations for him to come in and play with freedom.
“I’ve dropped down the order a bit to move a couple of the younger lads up,” he said.
“Oliver Metcalfe is opening the batting and Shane Getkate has moved up as well.
“Maybe the bit of experience in the middle order has helped them, but at the same time I have only been complimenting what the top order have been doing so far.”
Another spinner that has been in fantastic form of late is CIYMS’ Jacob Mulder, who took five wickets in the Challenge Cup last weekend against Armagh.
The 22-year-old also hit 66 while opening the batting in a league win over Carrickfergus, and captain Nigel Jones says the all-rounder plays an important role in the side.
“He can be a confidence player and he just needs to play the game to get back into some rhythm,” said Jones.
“In the last week and a half or so I have noticed a little bit of a difference in him and he’s getting more confidence with the ball.
“He is starting to get the ball up and down a bit more and control it better, and with him getting five against Armagh was good for him and it was the areas he bowled which was the most impressive thing.
“Jacob has always been dangerous with the bat in terms of what he can do.
“He likes to get on with it and he got an opportunity to open with John Matchett being over at university against Carrick and he got 66 straight away.
“He can be dangerous and he plays a good role for us in the middle order and in the latter stages when we need him.”
Jones is expecting another tough test, and will be hoping to repeat the dose over their Belfast rivals having won both league meetings last season.
“It’s always a good game against Instonians,” he added. “It doesn’t matter who you play for, when you’re playing against Instonians it is always one you are getting mentally up for.
“It’s always a good battle and nice to get one over on them.
"We had some good tussles last year and got a couple of wins against them in big games, and they knocked us out of the Irish Cup so they got one over on us there.
“We will be focused and up for that on Saturday, as will they, and I know they have been hit with a couple of injuries which will work one of two ways.
“It could bring them all really close and makes them fight and push without the couple of players away, but equally for us it gives us the chance to really attack and see if they can stand up to it.”
Both sides are involved in Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup action tonight, with Instonians hosting Waringstown and CIYMS taking on Carrickfergus.