Johnny Morton (News Letter)
Fresh from winning their first Premier League game against Carrickfergus last weekend, CSNI will travel to The Mall to take on Armagh in an important league clash.
Both sides are sitting on four points and in a dangerous position towards the bottom of the table, with this match providing the winners a bit of breathing space.
CSNI captain James Kennedy says his side were glad to get over the line after close defeats to Muckamore and Instonians earlier in the season.
“We were delighted to get our first win,” said Kennedy. “We were close on a few occasions previously and we probably got what we deserved, but it was a very difficult win and a hard fought game. There are no easy games in this league.
“It doesn’t matter who you are playing, everyone will give you a decent game. We were very glad to get over the line last weekend.”
The table is so tight that the winner could realistically be sitting four points off second place, and Kennedy is looking for his team to play their best cricket every week.
“It only takes a couple of bad games and you’re in relegation trouble, or at the top a couple of bad games from teams and all of a sudden you’re out with a league title,” he added.
“You just need to be careful and try to play your best cricket on every occasion.”
South African professional Andre Malan has been in fantastic form in recent weeks, hitting 140 and taking four wickets in their Challenge Cup win over North Down before getting another century against Carrickfergus on Saturday and 65* and another four wicket haul in their Irish Senior Cup victory against Balbriggan last Sunday.
Kennedy says it is a joy to play with Malan and that every member of the squad should be learning from his quality.
“He’s batting a dream and bowling extremely well,” he said. “His runs and wickets are extremely vital and it’s a joy to play with him. The boys are really enjoying it and he is a great lad who has fit in really well and has brought a lot to the club.
“Not just his runs and wickets, but with his personality and coaching and we are delighted to have him. “The level of cricket he is playing and how good he is, I don’t care what age you are, if you can’t learn from him then you’re in the wrong game. “
Armagh won their first game of the season against Muckamore, but have failed to pick up any points since then.
Captain Matthew Steenson believes his squad are moving in the right direction as players start to gain confidence of playing at a higher level.
“You can see confidence coming through with Jamie (Rogers) getting a couple of fifties and boys hitting runs and our bowlers getting wickets of big players, and you can see individuals getting that confidence,” he said.
“It’s just trying to install that belief that we can do it, but we still have a lot to do to get to a level where we are competing week in and week out.”
They were promoted from Section One last season having only lost three of their 18 league games whilst also picking up the Twenty20 Trophy title against Woodvale.
This season was always going to be tougher given the improved quality of team’s in the division, and Steenson is hoping his side can improve quickly and start picking up more points.
“We are trying to keep everyone’s morale up and keep everyone looking forward,” he added. Obviously when you are getting beat it isn’t as fun as what we have been used to in the last couple of years because we have been winning most games. We are always trying to take positives.
“We aren’t where we want to be on the field but we are improving and hopefully going forward we can improve fast and it will click for us, but we know we still have a long way to go.”
Shadley van Schalkwyk had been struggling at the start of the season with a niggling injury and Steenson is confident they will see the best of the talented all-rounder.
“He’s back to full fitness now and hopefully we will see the best of him because he is a quality player,” he said.