Sunday, October 2, 2022

Cricket Ireland: Match Preview – Knights v Lightning

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The two sides that got their Test Triangle Inter-Provincial Series off to a winning start will meet on Tuesday when the Northern Knights host Leinster Lightning at The Green, Comber (3pm).

There will be livescoring coverage of the game including video highlight clips in the newly launched match centre.

The Knights, who are defending champions in the Inter-Provincial (T20) Trophy, edged past the North West Warriors by two runs (DLS) at Bready last week while it was more comfortable for Leinster against Munster Reds, chasing down a target of 77 to win by nine wickets.

Leinster have dominated the Inter-Provincial scene since it was relaunched back in 2013, winning the IP Trophy five times in total, but the Knights will take confidence from their crowning in 2019 and perhaps more importantly, an eight-run victory over the Lightning at Pembroke on the way to their first piece of silverware in six years. That game may have been reduced to 13 overs per side but there was no lack of quality with the Knights posting 138-5, largely thanks to 65* from Greg Thompson, before managing to come out on the winning end despite surges from Gareth Delany, Andrew Balbirnie and Tyrone Kane.

Since 2017, the two sides have met five times in the T20 Trophy with Lightning winning on four occasions, but Knights captain Gary Wilson has often spoken about how much confidence his side picked up from their recent triumph.

With both teams starting on a winning note, this crunch clash is significant as they try to stamp their authority on proceedings early and gather momentum in a shortened campaign.

The Green, home of NCU Premier League outfit North Down, has a reputation for producing some of the finest wickets in the country and allows for a competitive contest between batter and bowler.

Due to the inclement local weather, the grounds team will have been given little opportunity to prepare and it appears as though there will be yet more rain in the area on Tuesday afternoon, which the players will want to avoid for what will be a hotly-contested battle. 

Northern Knights

The Knights will be without Thursday’s top-scorer Paul Stirling as the Irish international has left for England to join up with his Northants team-mates ahead of the Vitality T20 Blast, so Marc Ellison has been selected in the squad. Both Ross Adair and CJ van der Walt were handed their Knights debuts on Thursday and the former could be in line for a promotion up the order to open the batting with James McCollum.

David Delany missed the opening fixture but should take his place in the XI this time around and his raw pace adds another dimension to an already dangerous Knights attack.

Squad: Gary Wilson (Capt), Mark Adair, Ross Adair, David Delany, Shane Getkate, Graeme McCarter, James McCollum, Jacob Mulder, Ruhan Pretorius, Harry Tector, CJ van der Walt. Marc Ellison, Josh Manley.

Leinster Lightning

Lightning head coach Nigel Jones has also been impacted by players heading across the water to the T20 Blast with Andrew Balbirnie and Gareth Delany playing for Glamorgan and Leicestershire respectively.

Delany picked up figures of 3-8 against Munster Reds on Thursday while Balbirnie’s class with the bat is well documented, but their absence will provide the likes of Stephen Doheny a potential opportunity to further prove what he is capable of at Inter-Provincial level.

The 22-year-old Rush captain enters the game on the back of scoring 78* from 43 deliveries against Merrion at the weekend and is set to take a spot in the Lightning top order.

Squad: George Dockrell (Capt), Rory Anders, Curtis Campher, Peter Chase, Stephen Doheny, Greg Ford, Tyrone Kane, Josh Little, Barry McCarthy, Kevin O’Brien, Simi Singh, Fiachra Tucker, Lorcan Tucker.

Key players

Northern Knights – Graeme McCarter
McCarter picked up two wickets against the Warriors, proving both his ability to open the bowling by collecting the early wicket of Nathan McGuire before returning to dismiss the dangerous Andy McBrine. The 27-year-old has been one of the most consistent bowlers on the NCU club scene for quite some time, regularly performing at a high level for CSNI and that has translated to Inter-Provincial level where he chips in most matches. He spent two years with County side Gloucestershire between 2012-2014 and also made his Ireland ODI debut in September 2014, and with Knights head coach Simon Johnston believing McCarter is perhaps bowling better than ever before, he is certainly one to keep an eye on.

Leinster Lightning – Kevin O’Brien
O’Brien started the Inter-Provincial Series in fine fashion, scoring 45* from 27 deliveries which included six fours and two trademark sixes. The veteran Irish international is a classy performer and although he has lost his regular opening partner in Gareth Delany, no boundary is big enough to contain the 36-year-old if he gets going, and in recent times that has been more often than not. If he is able to bat for any meaningful period of time, he has the ability to take a game away from the opposition and Leinster will be hoping that is the case on Tuesday. 

Key to the contest

As previously mentioned, Leinster have dominated this fixture in the shortest format and they have batted first in three of the four victories they have collected over the Knights in the past few years.

It appears they enjoy batting first, setting a big total and then applying scoreboard pressure to their opponents, but they are just as dangerous if they have ball in hand first up with the talent that runs through their squad.

Andy Balbirnie has been a massive thorn in the Knights side, scoring 266 runs in his last four T20 innings against them (44, 72, 79. 71*) so his absence could be huge and the Lightning will have to find a way of replacing his runs.

Shane Getkate has often been the key man with the ball for the Knights in this fixture despite occasionally being expensive, picking up nine wickets in the last five games so he could again have a crucial role to play in breaking partnerships.

Another man that could have a say if history is to repeat itself is all-rounder Tyrone Kane, who has collected 11 wickets in the past three games against the Knights, including a combined 9-45 across two matches in 2018.

His ability to bowl with the new ball and also at the death can cause teams serious problems and the Knights will have to find a way of keeping him quiet if they are to come out on the winning side.

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