Johnny Morton (News Letter)
CSNI are preparing for a packed weekend of cricket with three matches in as many days.
The Stormont side have only lost one game in white ball cricket this season, and they will be looking to bring that sort of form into their Twenty20 Cup semi-final at North Down on Friday night.
They also face a crucial league game against Muckamore on Saturday before they welcome Clontarf on Sunday in the quarter-final of the Irish Senior Cup.
Opening batsman Marc Ellison has been in great form this season, hitting 657 runs in 14 innings - the highest of any player in the NCU. He says everyone is looking to extend their stay in the various cup competitions.
“We have certainly done very well to-date in white ball cricket and we have been improving in red ball too,” said Ellison.
“The mood around the camp is buoyant and there are plenty of smiles at training which is always good. We are keen to continue progressing in the cup competitions.”
Muckamore beat CSNI by eight runs when the two teams met on May 20, with the Belfast side struggling for form in the Premier League at the beginning of the season. They have come out the other side of their slump now having registered two consecutive wins over Carrickfergus and Armagh, and Ellison is looking to keep pushing in the right direction.
“We were disappointing that day and we didn’t perform as well as we would have liked,” he added. “It will be another test against them on Saturday, but we are certainly going to try and get those four points back and push our way up the league table.”
Graeme McCarter has been a key player this season, taking 18 wickets in 11 matches at an average of 16.53.
Ellison says the 25-year-old has made a difference in some of the bigger matches this season.
“Graeme is the type of bowler that won’t necessarily do you for pace or bounce as such, but he is wily,” he said.
“He’s played county cricket and although he is only mid-20’s, he has built up a lot of experience and is a smart bowler.
“The two big wickets in the Challenge Cup semi-final where he got (Shane) Getkate and (James) Shannon out were massive, and it was probably the difference between them mounting a half-decent chase to them winning.
“We have also got Matty Foster who has come on leaps and bounds this season. He moves the ball nicely and is capable of a really good delivery that can get anyone out.”
Clontarf sit second in the Leinster Premier League after winning five of their seven matches to date, and beat last year’s finalists The Hills in the last round of the cup. Ellison says CSNI will take each game as it comes, and are excited for the occasion.
“We haven’t really had too much time to think about Sunday, which can be a good thing,” he added. “
We were preparing for white ball cricket at practice on Tuesday, so we will take it as it comes. By all accounts Clontarf have a decent side, so we will need to play some good cricket.
“We are at home and our white ball form has been good so we are excited about the opportunity.”