Ian Callender (Sunday Life)
RAIN won the day in the Robinson Services League Cup with not a ball bowled in any of the four games, but the two points for the abandoned matches were enough for CIYMS and North Down to book their place in the knock-out semi-finals on Saturday week.
The top two were due to play each other at The Green yesterday but that first clash of the season is now delayed until next Sunday when they meet in the rearranged Lagan Valley Steels T20 Cup final at The Lawn.
If CI and North Down win their final group games next Saturday, against Woodvale and Lisburn respectively, they are assured of home semi-finals with the winners of the Waringstown v Civil Service North tie also guaranteed a place in the knock-out stages.
With the T20 Cup final, scheduled for this afternoon, postponed on Friday because Waringstown were “unable to prepare a pitch to the required standard”, Paul Stirling played only two games for North Down before he heads off today to Northamptonshire to play in the T20 Blast for the next four weeks.
“Yes, unfortunately we will not have Paul for the rest of the season but all the best to him and we still have a strong squad and have been in finals without him,” said club professional Ruhan Pretorius.
(Ruhan Pretorius of the Northern Knights and North Down)
“We still have Youngy (Ireland opening bowler Craig Young) and the rest of the guys have been brilliant. The leadership of Ally (Shields) has grown massively since last year with the help of the senior players and we’re looking forward to the rest of the season.”
The 29-year-old South African has a hectic five weeks ahead of him because not only are there a possible four more games for North Down but the Northern Knights have nine more matches.
Pretorius has been residing here permanently since the end of 2018, so will qualify to play for Ireland at the end of next year and he has big ambitions.
“It’s something you dream about as a kid, playing for your country,” said Pretorius.
“First of all, of course, it was with South Africa but then with the way South Africa has gone, you have to look elsewhere and with a fiancée in this country it made sense to move here.
“It’s a beautiful country so why not try and qualify here and still play in a World Cup, just for a different country.
"I will try and put in any performance I can for North Down, the Knights, whoever, put my best foot forward and hopefully at the end of next year when I qualify I will be there or thereabouts for selection.”
The Knights started their T20 campaign with victory over North West Warriors at Bready on Thursday and sets them up for the first of their huge clashes with the strong Leinster Lightning side at Comber on Tuesday (3pm).
Pretorius added: “Both teams are full of Irish players although Andrew Balbirnie and Gareth Delany are away (at the Blast) and we’ve lost Paul, but it is still a strong competition if the weather holds. It is best against best and another opportunity to showcase skills.
“Driving up on Thursday I never thought we would get a game at Bready and conditions were tough. But Paul was unbelievable with the bat up front and got 40 very quickly (off 27 balls) and got us into a winning position.”