The LHW Financial Planning Premier League moves to the second round with the two teams that dominated the preliminary stages of the Leinster Senior Cup sharing the top spot. It is obviously too early to read much into this but with three of the semi-finalists from the earlier competition winning their first round encounters it is clear that, for some, early season form has been carried through into the second league.
Two of the winners from last weekend, YMCA and The Hills, go head to head in Claremont Road. Both teams look to be at close to full strength with Oliver Gunning returning for his first game of the season to bolster the home side. Although seven YMCA players have scored more than 100 runs this season, the highest aggregate is 166. Indeed there have only been seven 50s scored by the team so an improvement is called for. James Parkinson leads the bowling attack with 14 wickets and YMCA will be hoping that Mitchell Thompson can continue where he left off for the Leinster Bolts v the MCC earlier in the week.
The Hills have had a great season with a 100% winning record. They bowling attack has excelled, with four players taking 10 or more wickets and four also managing an economy rate below 4 runs per over. Leading the way, Naseer Shoukat has taken 17 wickets in all and ten last weekend. With Daya Singh  and Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin  making most of the runs they have proved to be the strongest all-round side this year.
Although they lost narrowly to The Hills in Claremont Road at the start of the season, YMCA will take some comfort from the fact that The Hills have won six of their nine games at home.
Pembroke, who had a good win last weekend against Phoenix, travel to Malahide. Malahide lost out on DLS to YMCA last weekend but overall have had a good season and with four wins from six in the LSC were a little unlucky not to qualify for the semi-finals. They have a settled team [nine players have turned out for at least six of the seven games] with six players scoring over 100 runs and five players taking six or more wickets.
Pembroke’s success has been mainly based around their bowling. Theo Lawson has had success with the bat [two centuries in May] but overall the team runs have not been flowing. They have suffered through missing a number of players to international duty and Pembroke will be hoping that they will be available for more of this league.
Merrion also won last weekend after they posted a massive 384/7 against Leinster. This was the fourth time this season that Merrion has passed the 300 mark. If they gain the ascendency in a match they can be difficult to dislodge and have an impressive number of ‘maximum bonus points’ wins. The one time the batting failed, however, was against today’s opponents Phoenix.
Phoenix have the most parsimonious bowling attack in the league with three players in the current averages operating at less than 3.5 runs per over and five taking five or more wickets. Their batting has proved more brittle – but they still have two players with 300 plus and one with 200. So it promises to be a classic battle between bat and ball with match winners on each side.
The last game sees two teams that lost in the first round, Leinster and Rush, take the field in Rathmines. Both teams could be said to have had an up and down season so far dealing in impressive victories and disappointing defeats. Leinster, in particular, have proved more than a little mercurial. The statistics tell their own story. Leinster have used 20 players this year but only two have reached 100 runs. Perhaps even more telling only two players have played in all seven games.
Rush look the more consistent unit. They have only used 14 players with two exceeding 300 runs and another over 200. Their bowling, however, has let them down [although defending any total in Kenure is a challenge]. Rush will be missing Stephen Doheny from their line-up today but are able to call on Harry Archer for his first game since moving from The Hills.
Overall some fascinating games in prospect – weather permitting. A few things to watch out for. John Anderson requires 24 runs to be the first player to 500 runs this season. Daya Singh has already reached the first bowling milestone of 20 wickets. He could be joined by Amish Sidhu, Naseer Shoukat and Max Sorensen if they get three wickets today.