The BUAKIT Championship gets underway this Saturday, with four competitive fixtures set to open up the campaign.
Starting off with the two newcomers to the Championship, North Kildare who return to the league having been relegated in 2017 welcome complete newcomers County Galway, who although they will boast a side with several players of Championship level experience, as a team are entering the Cricket Leinster Open leagues for the very first time.
North Kildare have assembled a strong squad of players with experience at this level, as well as exciting young players that make them a very tough prospect to face for Galway first up. With the bat NK can call on Monil Patel, Josh Uddin, Danny Coad and Waqar Azmat, whilst with the ball they are slightly more raw, James Smith being their sole seamer with experience at the level. They do however have a battery of exciting seam talent, including Husnain Mahroof, Muzamil Sherzad and Abdul Aryan which give them a bit of something different in their bowling attack.
Galway on the other hand are something of an unknown quantity, they have former Terenure and Rush men Conor Mullen and Subramanya Ramnathpur as the players with the most recent experience of Championship level in their ranks. They are complemented by others who have played in the Open leagues as recently as last year, Vageesh Shivaprasad (YMCA), Prashanth Viswanath (Rush), Farman Yousafzai (Old Belvedere, YMCA), Iliff Sumit and Mitch Galav (both Civil Service & Terenure) and Danish Ali and Sukphal Singh (both Terenure).
If all of these players are available to them and firing on all cylinders, they give the Connacht men a chance of starting their campaign with a victory, however if they aren’t at full strength it’s a very good opportunity for North Kildare to return to the level with a victory.
KEY BATTLE: Monil Patel vs Subramanya Ramnathpur
Next up is Balbriggan’s trip to Cork County, both sides had solid if not spectacular Senior League Cup campaigns and will be hoping that the competitive early season cricket against Premier League sides will stand them in good stead for the upcoming league campaign.
Balbriggan seem to have unearthed a gem this season in Christopher De Freitas, he leads the bowling charts in the Senior League Cup currently with 16 wickets in just 6 games. They will hope the return of youngster Eoin Birch from his exchange in England will help bolster their seam attack alongside Abdul Sattar. With the bat, the ever reliable Connor Fletcher’s good form has seen him elevated into the Lightning Bolts set-up, he’s complemented throughout the middle order by Farooq Nasr, Greg Ford and Nathan Rooney, in what is an imposing looking batting line-up.
Cork on the other hand are much changed from when they last played Championship cricket but still have some of their reliable experienced heads they can count on at this level. Ross Durity, Rob Duggan and Abubakar Saddique have played a number of seasons with County in Open Comps, including a couple of forays into Division 1. Those players, accompanied by the new talent in the shape of Joubert Pienaar, Rudolph Pollard, Byron McDonough and Harvey Wootton make them a tough proposition for any side, and doubly so in their own back yard.
It’s likely to be a bit of a bat-off between these two top-heavy sides, and perhaps it will come down to which side’s premier bowler can deliver more timely wickets as to who ultimately comes out on top in this fixture.
KEY BATTLE: Chris De Freitas vs Joubert Pienaar
Railway Union and North County clash in Park Avenue in the next game up, both sides have performed strongly in the T20 format in the past year or so, with Railway finishing as runners-up in the Senior League Cup last season, whilst County have progressed to the semi-final stage this year.
The home side have been boosted this season doubly by the return of Ciaran Divney behind the stumps. Him taking the gloves from Glenn Querl has freed the skipper up to return to the bowling crease, and in tandem with Prabhanshu Kamal, they have produced some fine figures especially on home soil so far this season. Kenny Carroll’s form with the bat has been as encouraging as ever for Railway, and they will hope he can expand that into the 50 over format for the remainder of the season.
County on the other hand have retained a consistent squad for the past couple of years, adding John Mooney to their ranks as player coach at the start of 2020 was a major boost to them, and alongside Eddie Richardson and Jonno Andrews in the middle order, they have solidified the team hugely. Opener Niall McGovern is another player who’ll relish the return to 50 over cricket, whilst with the ball their attack includes spin from Cian Mulvaney and seam from Andrew Sheridan, both players returning to strengthen the side having not played in 2020.
Railway’s batting very much relies on Kenny Carroll giving them a base to set from, and it’s likely that if he can get through County’s early onslaught, he’ll give his side every chance of winning the game, if County take his wicket early, they’ll be well on top.
KEY BATTLE: Kenny Carroll vs Andrew Sheridan
Finally Rush visit Terenure as the sides face off for the third time in the space of 34 days, they were evenly matched in the Senior League Cup, with both sides winning their respective away legs in the competition.
Rush have seen some players come into their side and prosper in the 20 over campaign, Finn and Jack McGee are two who stand out as having made an impact straight away, and they will hope that can transfer that to the 50 over format, whilst their bowlers, Eastwood and Barnes in particular, will also relish the opportunity to finally bowl with the red ball again. If they can take early wickets, they’ll give Rush a great chance to get a foothold in the game.
Terenure will also be relishing the return to 50 over cricket this weekend, and do so with a little bit of momentum behind them having won two of their last three games. They are without Aidan Doyle and Diarmuid Lynch this week, meaning that Zubair Khan’s first taste of 50 over cricket in the province will be very definitely as the leader of the bowling attack, whilst Bhavic Tukrel returns to help offset the unavailability of the two seamers.
Early wickets tend to be crucial in Terenure, with players generally able to go big once they get in with the bat, for both sides that means they’ll need to weather an opening burst from their opposition as they go all out to get themselves in the driving seat early on, whichever batting sides copes best with the opposition’s opening bowlers will likely be the victor by the end of the day.
KEY BATTLE: Allan Eastwood vs Séamus Lynch
BUAKIT Championship - 17.7
Terenure vs Rush - Terenure, 12:00
Cork County vs Balbriggan - The Mardyke, 12:00
North Kildare vs County Galway - The Maws, 12:00
Railway Union vs North County - Park Avenue, 12:00