RARELY Is the build-up to a cup final about one player but the Gallagher Challenge Cup showdown between CIYMS and North Down at The Green could be decided by how long Aniruddha Chore bats.

The North Down opener has been compared to Don Bradman over the last month as he churns out run after run – 478 of them to be precise – since he was last dismissed, a sequence that includes 203 runs in the first three rounds of the cup and 140 not out against CIYMS in the Premier League game between the teams four weeks ago, which North Down won by 53 runs.

The worry for North Down, which CI skipper Nigel Jones was quick to highlight this week, is that the “run has end to sometime, so no better time than Friday”.

However, Jones had to acknowledge that “he’s been wonderful, has been batting brilliantly and was the difference between us in the league game, although we didn’t as we can with the bat so hopefully it will be a different case in the final”.

Opposite number Alistair Shields accepts that “all good things must come to an end at some point” but claims “it is doing a disservice to the rest of the guys to say we are a one-man team.

“Yes, Ani has been in unbelievable form and he deserves all the success he has. No works harder and hopefully he carries it into the final. But if he can’t hopefully one of the other guys can do it.

“Gayan (Maneeshan) has really looked a proper player the last few weeks, Peter Eakin has scored important runs, the same for Ryan Haire and myself so it’s a bit of a stretch to say we are solely reliant on Ani.”

Today would be the perfect time to prove it as North Down chase a 20th Cup final success, but their first since 2010. Ironically, the mantle of cup kings has been taken up in recent times by CIYMS who have played in four of the last five finals and won three of them so experience of the big occasion is firmly with the Belfast side.

Nine of the team that won the cup in 2019 – the trophy wasn’t played for last year because of the pandemic – will be involved again and Jones believes that will stand them in good stead.

“We always start the season confident that we can make the final and we’ve got pretty good names on the team-sheet,” says the CI skipper, “but we have to make sure we mentally turn up and if we do that we are usually on the right side of the result.

“It’s a special day, a brilliant competition to play in and when you glance across at the big trophy it gets the emotions going.

“The pressure may get to some but we have that bit of experience and know what it’s like so hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”

Both teams have named the same line-up as the semi-final which means Paul Stirling – on duty at The Hundred – will again be absent for North Down, but team-mates Craig Young and young opening bowler Tom Mayes, along with CI’s Mark Adair and Graham Kennedy flew back last night from England where they have been at an Ireland training camp this week.