THERE’S yet another big week upcoming in the North West with a full league programme on Saturday, the Interprovincial T20 day at Bready on Sunday followed by a couple of rearranged midweek fixtures after that.
The most pivotal of the Premier Division matches is likely to be at Ballymagorry where the home side, desperate for their first points of the season entertain unbeaten Strabane.
At first glance it looks a “gimme” for the Red Caps, however these two sides are very capable of wildly contrasting afternoons so nothing can be taken for granted.
Adding fuel to the fire of course is the return of Jonny Robinson to Ballymagorry, the man who skippered the Foxies in 2013 now very much part of the Strabane side that currently leads the table on maximum points.
Without a win to their name this season the hosts will be keen to get on the board as soon as possible and with time starting to run out their plight is obvious.
That will mean more pressure than usual for one man in particular, the Foxies having turned to Jason Milligan in mid-season to take over the captaincy from Iftikhar Hussain.
The opening batsman won’t have had much time to think about it this week though- he headed to Dublin on Monday afternoon for the Warriors’ three-day match in Leinster, returning tonight all things being equal. That just leaves one day off before Saturday’s league game and then it’s back to the Interpros on Sunday with that eagerly anticipated T20 day against both the Northern Knights and Leinster Lightning the following day.
Having just got married last month it has been a hectic schedule for the affable Milligan and he took time out on Monday before heading south to give his thoughts on the current schedule and the importance of a very understanding wife.
“Trust me I know how lucky I am that Jill is so understanding although she knows from the past eight years how important my cricket is” he began.
“It has been a very difficult season at Fox Lodge so far, that goes without saying, however there is no gloom and doom in the dressing room.
“The boys know that several of them aren’t on their game at the minute and it is costing us very dear. We have been getting really good starts in a lot of our innings but the middle and lower order just haven’t been taking advantage.
“ I know we’re a good side- we have plenty of quality but with every loss, confidence levels are dropping and that is affecting performances”.
Asked if he felt the Foxies could turn it around the skipper was adamant that they could.
“I keep telling the lads that two wins brings us right back into the mix. We have eight games left now and I honestly believe that if we get one win we can kick on although it is going to be tough for sure”.
And with Strabane up next did he feels that his team would be fired up for the return of their former skipper?
“Motivation has never really been an issue in our camp to be honest. Obviously the fact that Jonny is coming here as a Strabane player will see the team fired up even more and I hope that we can use that determination in a positive way.
“We know they’re a good side, they are top of the league and unbeaten but we’re desperate for the points ourselves. Every game for us now is a cup final and this is exactly the same so we’re going all out for the win on Saturday”.
Turning to the Warriors and the all-rounder said that he felt the tide was changing there too and he was looking forward to the hectic schedule this week.
“Last year we were a little tentative in the series however we have grown together as a squad over the past 12 months and are now a much more competitive unit.
“The players are really upbeat about this season and I have no doubt the results will come in their turn as well. Whilst there have been rumblings about dropping standards in cricket recently I can honestly tell you that if anything, cricket in the senior leagues and above is much tougher this season than I remember it.
“As an opening batsman you’re facing quality attacks week on week and the addition of Craig Young, Tabish Khan and Tawanda Mupariwa this season has made the job no easier. Still, I’m looking forward to the challenge in Leinster this week and playing in front of what should be a decent crowd in the T20 at Bready on Sunday.
“Without doubt though the focus on Saturday will be on Strabane and nothing more as we bid to claw our way back in to the reckoning”.