This evening sees the return of Sprint Coatings Division One cricket after a hiatus since May 26th owing to Ireland’s international series with South Africa and the busy school examination period. We return with three fixtures set to be played this evening, the fourth, Phoenix’s tie against The Hills, has already been awarded to The Hills with Phoenix unable to field a team this evening.
That still however leaves three enthralling battles to be fought out among the other 6 sides, with 1st facing 4th whilst 2nd play 3rd and 5th face 6th, all three games are set to have some sort of significant impact on the league tables.
MERRION VS LEINSTER
We kick off with the league leaders Merrion hosting Leinster who sit 4th after 5 league games with just two wins to show for their efforts thus far.
The home side have put together an excellent start to the season, winning the opening 5 league fixtures and been dominant in the main in doing so, batting first in each of their games, they saw off their then closest rivals Pembroke by one run in the final game before the break, aside from that their narrowest margin of victory has been 28 runs, in all reality a very wide margin in the T20 format. The excellent form of Rebecca Stokell and Leah Paul have been the driving force for Merrion so far this season, both players have a brace of half-centuries this season, with Paul having made 186 runs in the league, whilst Stokell has made 154. With the ball, Paul has been the spearhead of the attack taking 9 wickets so far this season, whilst teenager Niamh MacNulty has led the way with the new ball, bowling some good economical spells and taking early wickets.
Leinster on the other hand will be hoping to be returning to something resembling full strength after a few weeks off, Laura Delany returned to action in Open Comps on the weekend, making 49 for Leinster’s 4th XI and if she is in the side tonight will prove a major boost. Sophie MacMahon’s good form with the bat was on show in the 2nd ODI against South Africa where she made a powerfully compiled 42, form which her club side will be hoping to see some of in the return to league cricket. Other contributors with the bat so far this season have been Ellen Ridgeway and Rebecca Rolfe, the pair have shared successful opening partnerships and will look to again carry that forward. Ava Canning leads the way with the ball, with MacMahon and Jenny Sparrow also providing seam bowling options which are important attributes for the side.
Merrion’s top order have been in superb form this season, and ultimately Leinster will likely need to knock over Rebecca Stokell if they want to restrict their opposition’s scoring rate, Ava Canning will be the one handed the ball with that responsibility during the PowerPlay overs in Merrion’s batting innings.
KEY BATTLE: Rebecca Stokell vs Ava Canning
CLONTARF VS MALAHIDE
Both of these sides enter this game with 2 wins from a possible 5, with Malahide’s bonus points haul thus far just squeezing them above this evening’s hosts into 5th place. A win for either of these teams tonight could very easily see them jump above Leinster should they fail to beat the league leaders, with something of a possibility of a mini-league of sorts developing between the three sides.
The home side are boosted by the availability of Bhavi Devchand for the first time this season, an addition that they will hope can help raise their batting to the level that their bowling has been at for much of the season so far. There have been contributions with the bat from Alice Walsh, Aoife Brennan and Christina Coulter-Reilly, however consistency has not been Clontarf’s strong suit thus far and Devchand entering the side should stabilise their batting unit and allow for some more consistent scores to be made. With the ball however they boast arguably the league’s form bowler in Coulter-Reilly, she’s taken 8 wickets costing just 4.89 apiece so far this season, whilst Freya Sargent and Julie McNally are others who have been generally consistent with ball in hand.
Malahide enter this game at full strength, meaning the return of one of the most formidable partnerships in Leinster at the top of their order with Caoimhe McCann and Amy Hunter, the pair will as usual be aggressive in their stroke play and aim to put together a big partnership at the top of their innings. Arlene Kelly will bat in the middle order alongside Anna and Maria Kerrison, and those three will be crucial in terms of building on the start which their opening pair can provide. With the ball, that middle order trio will all contribute, with Kelly and Maria Kerrison both seam-up options, whilst Anna Kerrison is the main spinner in the side, Maria O’Halloran is the other main seam option in the side who will likely bowl with the new ball.
With it being Bhavi Devchand’s first appearance of the season, all eyes will be on how she gets on in this game, with the anticipation for her to improve Clontarf’s batting there for all to see, Arlene Kelly will be the bowler Malahide will hope to see taking Devchand’s wicket, and giving their side a good chance of putting pressure on ‘Tarf’s batting unit again.
KEY BATTLE: Bhavi Devchand vs Arlene Kelly
PEMBROKE VS YMCA
Finally we look at the visit of YMCA to Sydney Parade to face Pembroke in a game which looks certain to be the pick of this week’s action. Both have been in fine form over the first five games of the season, Pembroke were just inches from being atop the table in their one run defeat against Merrion, whilst YMCA have won four on the bounce after an opening day tie with Leinster.
The visitors are missing Kate McEvoy, Robyn Lewis and Lucy O’Reilly from their regular side from the opening salvo of the season, but are boosted by being able to call upon Gaby Lewis, Sarah Forbes and Georgina Dempsey, all of whom featured strongly for Ireland in the series with South Africa. There’s a debut also set for Sophie Strickland in this week’s game, she will no doubt assist in some way filling the hole left by the absence of Lewis and O’Reilly. Young Alice Tector has bowled excellently in the league so far this season and she will be one of the bowlers aiming to help offset the absence of usual new-ball bowler McEvoy. Dempsey and Vanshika Shukla are both also likely to feature prominently with the ball for the away side in this fixture.
Pembroke on the other hand have yet to confirm their side as yet, however they are likely to be without Orla Prendergast as she continues her return from injury, whilst Shauna Kavanagh also saw her participation in last week’s internationals reduced due to injury and may be another doubt. Skipper Mary Waldron will play an important role at the top of the order alongside Lou Lou Little, and whilst the absence of Kavanagh and Prendergast would hinder the middle order quite a bit, the return to form of Clare Shillington, who made an aggressive 51 in their last game against Merrion, would go some way towards accounting for their absence. With the ball Louise McCarthy has bowled brilliantly at the top throughout each of her appearances so far, whilst medium pace from Mhairi Nicoll and Anna Beale has also been good when called upon, the major boost to the side has been the return to the bowling crease of Lou Lou Little, who has helped to more than make up for the absence of her sister Hannah so far this season.
With Pembroke looking like they will be quite top heavy with the bat in this game, Lou Lou Little’s start is going to be vitally important, her battle with Georgina Dempsey in the PowerPlay overs will go a long way towards determining the momentum of the game, if YM’s international can knock Little over, it will be a big boost to the visiting side’s chances of victory.
KEY BATTLE: Lou Lou Little vs Georgina Dempsey