Downpatrick ready to travel to Comber
Alistair Bushe (News Letter)
DOWNPATRICK will switch tomorrow’s NCU Challenge Cup quarter-final with North Down to Comber should their Strangford Road ground be unplayable.
The Meadow has been badly hit by heavy rain over the last two days and captain James Magowan says his team will travel to The Green, one of the driest venues in the country, if it means avoiding the potential lottery of a bowl-out.
All four quarter-final ties were postponed last weekend and under controversial rules introduced by the NCU, a second postponement would mean a bowl-out, cricket’s equivalent of the penalty shootout.
Magowan, whose Downpatrick team are unbeaten in the league since losing to Lurgan on the opening day of the season, said victory in a bowl-out would feel hollow.
He said: “We are going to go to North Down if our place is not playable. It’s not looking great at the minute, but we would not feel right getting through in a bowl-out. You want to win cricket matches on the field, not in a bowl-out.
“We are underdogs as it is, and going there makes it harder again. Any advantage we had was playing at home, but it’s about playing cricket. We could sit back and take a bowl-out and go through like that, but it wouldn’t be the same.”
Magowan is genuine when he says he is itching to take on North Down in a proper 50-over game. Since relegation from the top flight two years ago, a new, younger Downpatrick has re-emerged.
The captain has identified the new professional, Australian Erik Laubscher, who was signed as a late replacement for Pakistani Mohammed Farrukh, as a key influence in their fine early-season form.
Magowan said: “Practice has become a lot more intense since he came. It’s no longer a case of driving through the gates and then doing nothing, he is working us really hard.
“I suppose we got lucky getting him so late. He is a 23-year-old from Adelaide, a left-handed batsman who bowls leg spin. He was very highly thought of when he was younger with the ball, but he had a growth spurt when he was 17 and it’s only in the last six months that he started bowling properly again. He is a lovely batsman, he hardly hits a ball in the air.”
Even if Downpatrick pull off the impossible against North Down tomorrow, their priority remains promotion from Section One. Lurgan remain favourites to collect that particular prize, but Magowan is adamant that it is not a one-horse race.
He added: “Lurgan are doing well because they have come out on the right side of a few tight games. But they are beatable and rely very heavily on Niranjan (Godbole). They beat us at the start of the season, so we have to keep winning and hope they lose somewhere along the line before we play them again.”
Downpatrick are one of three Section One clubs who retain an interest in the Challenge Cup. The other two, Lurgan and Muckamore, are scheduled to meet at Pollock Park, with the winner guaranteed a home draw against either Civil Service North and Instonians.
That all Premier League game at Stormont tomorrow is the tie of the round. Instonians might have been favourites when the draw was made but they have lost professional Mick Delaney to injury, and their form has been inconsistent.
Civil Service North meanwhile are in a rich vein of form and in Griffin Nieuwouldt, the South African all-rounder, they boast the division’s in-form professional. Waringstown, the cup holders, have prepared a wicket and covered large areas of The Lawn so their tie with Lisburn could be played there if Wallace Park succumbs to the weather.