Another weekend of NCU cricket is in the books and it was a good one with runs aplenty and the finalists for the Twenty20 Cup both decided on Sunday.

From Instonians ending CIYMS’ unbeaten run to Paul Stirling’s North Down debut, we run through five thoughts from the weekend that was.

1. Unpredictable Instonians
I asked last week who would beat CIYMS this season and it turned out we didn’t have to wait long to find out the answer as Instonians recorded a 10-run victory against the favourites on Saturday.

Instonians have had a strange season so far, beating both Waringstown and CIYMS, two teams that have won the last five Twenty20 Cup’s between them but have also failed to chase 88 against CSNI and were bowled out for 77 by North Down.

They have a very young side and that means there are going to be inconsistent performances, but if they can put a run of results together now at the back end of the Robinson Services Cup league stage then they could be the dark horse in the play-offs.

Andrew White’s men would go in with the knowledge that they have what it takes to beat any team on their day and with the likes of Shane Getkate in their side plus a number of young stars, who knows what their potential could be.

2. Great day for NCU cricket at The Lawn
There was a bumper crowd present at The Lawn on Sunday for Waringstown’s Twenty20 Cup semi-final against North Down.

Many would have been there to watch Paul Stirling’s first game for his new club and they got an early show in the blistering sunshine as he smashed 29 from 17 balls before he was caught off the bowling of James Mitchell, who was once again superb.

Stirling then took 3-7 while Ireland team-mate Craig Young rounded the game off with two wickets and Waringstown also had James McCollum back in their side after his international commitments.

Although the match wasn’t necessarily close in the end, it was great to see so many out enjoying what the local game has to offer and the presence of Stirling has certainly gave it a massive boost.

3. Runs galore at Stormont
It wasn’t a day for the bowlers at Stormont on Saturday with Carrickfergus and CSNI hitting 331 runs between them in 34 overs as the latter ran out victors by nine wickets.

Carrick opener George Munsey showed what he’s all about by smashing 80 from 42 to help set a target of 166, which Ross Adair (92 from 38) and Marc Ellison (59* from 37) almost chased on their own in the space of an hour.

In an extraordinary afternoon of batting, there were 28 fours and 20 sixes between the two sides as CSNI improved to three wins from four matches while Carrick have now lost all four of their opening league games, but they are clearly better than their record this season suggests.

Adair needed to score more runs for his club to further state his claim for a spot in the Northern Knights set-up for the Inter-Pro’s that get underway on August 20 and he emphatically did that, so it’ll be interesting to see who makes the cut for that first game against the North West Warriors at Bready.

4. Cregagh looking in prime position for Trophy success
Just like I questioned with CIYMS last week, there is a similar trend arising with Cregagh and who will beat them this season.

The Ducks are currently unbeaten through five matches (four wins, one void) and their bowling attack is giving teams all sorts of problems right now.

They restricted Downpatrick to 58-7 on Saturday and only one team has got over 100 against them in the league, which was Armagh with 101 all out so every side so far has seemed to struggle.

With their array of spinners and Adam Beattie, Cregagh have an ability to starve their opponents of runs before knocking them off and they are certainly favourites to be top of the league come September.

5. North Down and CIYMS double header could be special
With North Down and CIYMS both progressing to the Twenty20 Cup final, it means they will face off twice in a weekend with their league fixture on August 22 and the decider one day later at The Lawn.

It’s unclear if Stirling will be able to play in the final with Northants commitments in the Twenty20 Blast in England but if he can and both teams are at full strength, it could be a very special occasion.

You could have both of Ireland’s white-ball opening bowlers in Craig Young and Mark Adair present plus a number of other Irish internationals such as James Cameron-Dow and Jacob Mulder.

Add in a potential future international in Ruhan Pretorius, the consistency and brilliance of Chris Dougherty, the red-hot form of Alistair Shields, last year’s Premier League Bowler of the Year Peter Eakin, CI captain Nigel Jones who always seems to turn up in big games and much more, we could be in for an incredible couple of days.