THERE is more than a hint of irony that Woodvale’s first match of the season is at The Green in Comber tonight because lining up against North Down will be Ruhan Pretorius and Aditya Adey.

With Woodvale’s match at CIYMS rained off last Saturday, the two players who were in North Down colours last year will be forgiven for going into the home dressing room and will certainly know more about the opposition than their own team.

For Pretorius in particular, who spent four successful years at North Down, it is an instant chance to prove to his former employers they were wrong to release him.

It was certainly one of the stories of the winter when the Comber side, who had just won the Robinson Services League Cup – their first trophy success for eight years – with Pretorius top scoring in the final, announced they could no longer afford to keep the popular South African, who is currently qualifying for Ireland.

Pretorius, a core member of this year’s Northern Knights squad which returns to action on Sunday, also at Comber, against Leinster Lightning, has insisted he holds no grievance against North Down but it would be only human if he put in an extra effort tonight. It promises to be a fascinating contest and will be an early indication of how successful Woodvale’s season could be.

Their other new signing, James Hall, was just as prolific down the years with Waringstown and for shock value it at least equalled Pretorius’s release, after 18 years at The Lawn when he scored almost 12,000 runs.
Stephen Bunting is the new skipper at Woodvale and confirmed that all three will make their debuts tonight and is excited for the season ahead.

“It is the start of a three-year process at Woodvale and if we can consolidate around mid-table it will be a good season,” said Bunting, a former Irish Schools skipper now in his second spell at Ballygomartin Road.

“No better to way to start against your old club, first up. The lads have already played at Comber in a four-team pre-season tournament and we actually beat North Down and tied with Carrickfergus so it’s been as strong a pre-season as we could have hoped for.

“The real competition starts this weekend, however and we are all up for it. James Hall is as fit as I’ve seen him and he is going to bowl again. We haven’t had a spinner come through the club in a while and that will be an added bonus. The wickets he took at Waringstown (265) have been overshadowed by playing with Gary Kidd and Kyle McCallan and, of course, the runs he scored.

"And the fact he is about the club, with all that experience can only help young Harry Warke and Jack Burton and even myself and Jamie Gibson. Who wouldn’t want to learn off one of the all-time leading run scorers in NCU history.”

The other game tonight is Lisburn’s first at home and they will be looking to make it two wins out of two after their shock, but deserved, victory at The Lawn last Saturday.

Carrickfergus are the visitors and will have debutants Jeremy Lawlor and Graeme McCarter on board but Neil Rock, signed on loan from Rush until the Leinster season starts on June 7, has not given any indication yet when he will be available.

Tomorrow, it’s Woodvale at home to Carrick but the pick of the games is North Down against Waringstown, a repeat of last year’s League Cup final.