With the Senior Men's T20 competition completed last weekend, attention at the senior club level of Open Competitions now turns to the IBI Corporate Finance sponsored Premier League & Championship with some compelling clashes on the fixture schedule for week one.
Speaking about the upcoming league programme, Tom Godfrey, Chairman & Chief Executive of IBI Corporate Finance, commented as follows:
“We in IBI Corporate Finance are delighted to continue our association with Cricket Leinster through sponsorship of its Premier League and Championship competitions. We wish all the teams and the organisers all the very best in these prestigious competitions as they kick off this weekend. We will be excited to follow developments through the Cricket Leinster social media channels over the summer months.”
Cricket Leinster is hugely appreciative of the continued support provided by IBI Corporate Finance as sponsors of both our senior open league competitions. IBI also sponsored our CL Awards Night & Gala Dinner back in January at the Mansion House (attended by over 360 people).
As agreed via club consultation in the off-season, all league competitions will be played in white clothing with a red ball and all Premier League & Championship fixtures are scheduled to start at 12noon as 50-over games.
In terms of promotion & relegation between the Premier League and the Championship, there will be one team up & one team down at the end of this season and a play-off match between the second last in the Premier League and the team coming second in the Championship.
The 2022 Premier League Champions (Balbriggan CC) commence their title defence with a trip to Anglesea Road where they take on Merrion.
Balbriggan will come into this competition full of confidence based on their recent success as 2023 Alan Murray Cup Champions whilst Merrion will be looking to bounce back from a chastening home defeat to The Hills last Saturday when they were overwhelmed by a stunning century from Nicolaj Laegsgaard off just 35 balls (including a staggering 15 sixes).
The two sides promoted from the Championship (Leinster & Railway Union) both start their Premier League campaigns with home ties against YMCA and The Hills respectively whilst Clontarf host Malahide at Castle Avenue.
MERRION VS BALBRIGGAN
We’ll kick off this weekend’s previews with the holders’ visit to Anglesea Road, with this game looking set to be the tie of the weekend. Balbriggan’s success in the LHk Alan Murray Cup last weekend showcased the talent of a number of their players, but even more so than that, an ability to bounce back in the face of difficult situations. That bouncebackability will be sure to stand the side in even better stead in the move to 50 over cricket this weekend. With the bat there’s set to be a bit of a reshuffle this weekend, with regular longer-form opener Ghanim Dara to return to the side, that will free up Connor Fletcher to play a bigger role in the middle order of the side and potentially take advantage of not having to face the new ball. Matt Pollard’s batting at the back end of the innings last weekend no doubt won Balbriggan the game, and the bonus big hitting that he offers alongside Dylan Lues and Andrew Darroch in the lower-middle order gives the side a very powerful look to it. With the ball, Pollard leads the line, whilst Samuel Willemse’s spell last weekend exhibited what he could do when the ball is swinging, if he can continue that form with the red ball in hand, he’s set to be a real handful this season. Spinners Lues and Farooq Nasr are no real secret to anyone in the league at this stage, however their quality remains undoubted and the pair can really tie down teams when they get on top. Kashif Ali was also one of the leading bowlers with the red ball over the past couple of seasons, and he could well prove to be an excellent option for skipper Greg Ford again this season.
Merrion meanwhile would have been disappointed with the way which their semi-final fixture panned out last weekend, they have however got a strong recent record in the league, and a team which is more than capable of competing in this season’s edition. The batting line-up features one of the most feared batsmen in the league in Stephen Doheny at the top of the order, whilst John Anderson will relish the return to the longer format this weekend. Jack Carty and Sam Harbinson will be two more vital wickets in the side, with Harbinson having already shown his 50 over credentials on his Leinster Lightning debut. Mike Lewis returns to the side and he rounds off the batting unit alongside skipper Dom Joyce and Swapnil Modgil. With the ball, Muhammed Sinan’s ability to extract movement early in the innings will be assisted by the return to red-ball cricket, with Harbinson also likely to find this to his liking as well. Sean Stanton is another bowler with the ability to swing the ball, so his workload will almost certainly increase compared to the number of overs he had been bowling in the T20 competition. Max Sorensen and Jack Carty are the other seam bowling options in the side. On the spin front, Danny Forkin remains unavailable to Joyce at the moment due to study commitments, meaning Tom Stanton will continue to lead the attack, whilst that could also see a bigger role for Seb Dijkstra’s leg-breaks with the teenager having impressed hugely since his debut earlier in the season.
This game is likely to boil down to which side can adjust to the red ball and longer format quicker between the sides, with the change in batting styles so massive in compared to the change in bowling methods, it’s likely that whoever bats first will be the side under more pressure. With that in mind the toss is very important, however Merrion’s top order will include players who have played far more 50 over cricket this season than Balbriggan’s. Cameron Rowe will be in the hotseat at the top of the order for the visitors, and his battle with Merrion’s Sam Harbinson early in the innings could well be vital to ensuring the defending champions get off to a good start.
KEY BATTLE: Sam Harbinson vs Cameron Rowe
LEINSTER VS YMCA
A reverse of both side’s first long-form game of the season is this pair’s first league game of the season. Leinster travelled to Claremont Road a few weeks ago and managed to defend a very low total quite comfortably in the end. This week as hosts they will be hoping to get their league season off to a flying start, against a YMCA side remaining without the assistance of it’s international pair in Campher and Tector, both of whom will be playing in the Lord’s Test this weekend. With the bat that gives Leinster the upper hand, they have plenty of talent at the top of their order, including Monil Patel and Joey Carroll, who will almost certainly occupy the most important slots at numbers 3 and 4, around them the likes of Bilal Azhar at the top, Michael Hogan, Saqib Bahadur and overseas man Pete Francis will be the 6 players who the Rathmines side look to for the bulk of their runs. With the ball, Carroll and Francis provide excellent seam options, whilst left-arm quick Jai Moondra is likely to be a man looking to find some lateral movement to complement his extra pace. Mark Tonge rounds off a strong seam-bowling unit which could prove to be a real handful early in the season. Spin is provided in the shape of Saqib Bahadur’s off-breaks and the left-arm orthodox of Dev Ranolia, both of whom are economical in general but have also been known to take important wickets when it counts.
YMCA’s batting line-up hasn’t fired at any stage this season outside of their openers who have been in brilliant form at club level. Tim Tector’s first two knocks in the T20 format saw him quickly put on a pedestal as a player to be feared this season, whilst Adam Rosslee’s half-century against Pembroke is the other decent score of note produced by the batters in the side so far this year. The 50 over format is almost certain to be more to the liking of Jack Tector and Ashley Burton, whilst Tom Anders and Aaron Bailey in the lower-middle order are a pair of batsmen who can also offer plenty in the longer format. The hard hitting of Rory Anders will still no doubt be looked at as a valuable asset towards the back end of the innings for this side as well. With the ball, Reuben Wilson has shot to prominence this season with a break-out five wicket haul in just his second List A fixture for the Lightning a couple of weeks ago, he leads the attack and is set to be re-joined by Mikey O’Reilly following the conclusion of the Dublin University season. The Anders’ brothers provide more solid medium pace options, with Burton’s left-arm also able to be called upon. The spin bowling comes in the form of the two left-armers, as Bailey leads the way supported by James Forbes.
Given how YMCA’s batting has fallen asunder after their openers on several occasions this season, their skipper Tim Tector will be a crucial wicket in the batting innings. Pete Francis will likely open the bowling to him, and if he can dismiss the YM skipper early in the piece, it will give Leinster an opening to get after the frail middle-order.
KEY BATTLE: Pete Francis vs Tim Tector
CLONTARF VS MALAHIDE
This fixture is likely to be vitally important come the end of the season, last year Clontarf and Malahide had totally contrasting openings to their Premier League campaigns, and the momentum which can be gained or stunted at the beginning of the season is likely to prove crucial given the times of the season when clubs will be missing their international stars. This weekend is one such weekend for ‘Tarf, as Fionn Hand and PJ Moor will both be away on Ireland duty, that coupled with the continued absence of David Delany means the side are significantly weaker than they were for their powerful run of form during the second half of last season, which saw them go from relegation certainties to near title-challengers! Batting wise Ruan Cronje will need to step up to the plate in the longer format, whilst skipper Eoghan Delany will also prove to be a key wicket. The return of David Vincent is sure to be a major boost, as his form at the top of the order also proved vital at the back end of last season. ‘Bobbo’ Forrest, John McNally and Aaron McGeehan round off a balanced but largely quite aggressive batting line-up. With the ball the absence of Hand again hampers the side, however Mick Granger’s skills with the red ball are excellent and he should prove to be a handful. He’ll likely be supported by Liam Gilhooly and Luke Thomson based on what has been seen so far this season. ‘Tarf’s major strength however is their spin bowling, with Cronje’s leggies supplemented by the left-arm spin of Cillian McDonnell, both of whom will be on the hunt for wickets in the middle overs.
Malahide meanwhile seem to have a never-ending depth chart, especially when taking not that they have not played a game so far this season without someone being unavailable. Their battery of seamers would be the envy of some Inter-Pro sides, with Peter Chase, skipper Jimmy Newland, David O’Halloran, Cameron Shoebridge and Kelvin Donnelly all vying for spots in the side. Ali Frost and Andrew Sheridan are another two men who can provide seam-bowling options if ever required, whilst the frontline spinner in Matt Ford is supported by the option of Hunter Kindley. With the bat, Afghan Younas Ahmadzai has shown some real fireworks this season, even in some losing causes, whilst the 50 over format is sure to be right up the street of Kindley, Frost and Fintan McAllister. Jamie Grassi, Sheridan and Ford will likely occupy positions in the middle order, and those three will be hoping to see Ahmadzai get them off to some flying starts this season to allow them to capitalise throughout the middle of the innings.
The flying start mentioned above can only be provided if Younas Ahmadzai can manage to combat the opening spell of Clontarf’s premier seam bowler Mick Granger, if he can manage that, the Village will be right on the front foot and it will leave a big job for ‘Tarf’s spinners to do to drag the game back.
KEY BATTLE: Mick Granger vs Younas Ahmadzai
RAILWAY UNION VS THE HILLS
Park Avenue plays host to Premier League cricket for the first time since 2016 tomorrow as The Hills are the visitors to Railway Union. The Skerries men come into this game as many fans’ pre-tournament favourites to land the league title, however it remains to be seen whether there’s to be any scars left from last weekend’s relatively heavy defeat in the LHK Alan Murray Cup Final. The Hills had an excellent off-season in recruiting Danish man Nicolaj Laegsgaard, Aussie-born Sean McNicholl, Nathan Rooney from Balbriggan and the Sherzad brothers, Muzamil and Yaseen from North Kildare, coupled with the retention of the ever classy Murray Commins, the development of Mark Donegan into the Leinster Lightning squad, and a largely successful season in the southern-hemisphere for Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin, the side looks primed to have a really powerful run at the league this campaign. Commins and Donegan have both been in good form in this season’s IP50 games so far, whilst Laegsgaard showed off his abilities to the masses with an outrageous display of hitting in last weekend’s T20 semi-final, McLoughlin-Gavin at the top of the order provides solidity matched with stroke-making ability, whilst Rooney’s addition to the middle order simply adds more power and ball-striking class in a batting line-up which is on paper probably the strongest in the league. With the ball, no doubt this is where McNicholl and Sherzad will be looking to shine in a big way, Tómas Rooney-Murphy is an ever consistent performer at this level and the left-arm spin twins of Laegsgaard and Jonathan Tall are two men who offer consistent performance with their tweakers.
Railway Union meanwhile will need to show they’ve shaken off any baggage which they too could be perceived to be carrying after last weekend’s defeat to the eventual champions Balbriggan in the semi-final of the Alan Murray Cup. They have found themselves a true class option to accompany Kenny Carroll at the top of the order in the shape of Kiwi gloveman Riley Mudford, he showed all of his skills with a fine century in last week’s game. Former UAE U19 Punya Mehra has also been in fine touch batting at number 3, whilst there’s yet more depth beyond them in the line-up, with Ashil Prakash, Liam McCarthy and Brandon Kruger all offering their own major positives with the bat through the middle order. With the ball, McCarthy leads the line and he’s been in fine form this season, certainly appearing to have added a yard of pace to his bowling in the winter. The seam options to support him may look slightly thin however this is more than made up for by the inclusion of 4 spin options which all offer something different. Alan Joseph Mathew’s quick off-spin has the ability to catch batsmen’s footwork if it’s in any way lazy, whilst Brandon Kruger’s offies rely more on flight and spin off the pitch to deceive his opposition. Fakhar Zaman’s straight breaks seek to bore batsmen into lapses of concentration, whilst Hamza Maan’s leggies hunt wickets in the knowledge he may occasionally go for runs.
The manner in which Mudford and Laegsgaard both scored their centuries in last weekend’s semi-finals were really brilliant to watch, however it’s likely the number threes will have more of an impact in this game. Murray Commins’ wicket is the prize possession for any opposition bowlers he comes up against, and his Munster Reds team-mate Liam McCarthy will have his sights firmly set on an effort to dismiss his fellow South-African to put Railway Union on top in this fixture.
KEY BATTLE: Liam McCarthy vs Murray Commins
IBI CORPORATE FINANCE PREMIER LEAGUE
Merrion v Balbriggan (Anglesea Road)
Leinster v YMCA (Observatory Lane)
Clontarf v Malahide (Castle Avenue)
Railway Union v The Hills (Park Avenue)