Ireland looking for some breaks
CRICKET: IRELAND will be looking for a break in the weather as much as anything else as they aim to pull clear at the top of the World Cup qualifying table in the first of this week’s matches against Afghanistan at Castle Avenue in Clontarf this morning (10.45am).
Just 10 overs were possible in the match against Australia in Belfast 10 days ago, and a dreadful forecast means the games today and on Thursday, with reserve days on Wednesday and Friday, are likely to see the Duckworth Lewis calculations coming into play as a best-case scenario.
At least most of the Irish players have some recent cricket under the belts at either county or club level, while Afghanistan’s preparations being badly hindered by the weather since their arrival.
On their first visit to the country, their two-day game against an Ireland Development XI at Oakhill Cricket Club in Wicklow was abandoned without a ball being bowled, while both sides were forced to use the indoor facilities at North County yesterday as the Castle Avenue pitch and square remained under cover.
Indeed Afghanistan’s last match was three months ago, when they completed a three-wicket victory over the Netherlands in an Intercontinental Cup clash at their base in Sharjah.
Previous to that they shared the two World Cup qualifiers against the Dutch, leaving them with a record of three wins and three losses in the competition to date.
Ireland gained the upper hand in what has been a lively jousting match between the sides when they claimed the World Twenty20 qualifier in Dubai at the end of March and Ireland coach Phil Simmons has welcomed the rivalry.
“There’s no doubt that Afghanistan has emerged as our most difficult challengers over the past two or three years. We’ve had some intriguing tussles with them in that time and it’s fair to say it has probably been pretty even in terms of results,” said Simmons .
“These are going to be high pressure games as we look to cement our place at the top of the qualifying group for the World Cup, but we know it won’t be easy.”
With opening bowler Boyd Rankin still missing with a foot injury, Simmons is likely to keep the same XI as started the game against Australia, with Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh taking over.
Afghanistan are missing their skipper Nowroz Mangal, who suffered a serious finger injury and has been ruled out for six weeks. Opening batsman Karim Sadiq takes on the captaincy in his absence and will look to lead from the front with his hard-hitting style in a side that includes plenty of strokemakers, the pick of which is wicket-keeper Mohammad Shazhad.
Ireland are not short of a few either with Paul Stirling coming in to the game on the back of three half-centuries for Middlesex in his last three outings for the county.
IRELAND (from): William Porterfield (Warwickshire, capt), Alex Cusack (Clontarf), George Dockrell (Somerset), Trent Johnston (YMCA), Ed Joyce (Sussex), John Mooney (North County), Tim Murtagh (Middlesex), Kevin O’Brien (Somerset), Niall O’Brien (Northants), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Max Sorensen (The Hills), Stuart Thompson (Limavady), Andrew White (Instonians), Gary Wilson (Surrey).
AFGHANISTAN (from): Karim Sadiq (capt), Mohammad Nabi, Asghar Stanikzai, Mohammad Shahzad, Javid Ahmadi, Samiullah Shenwari, Amir Mangal, Gulbadin Naib, Dawlat Zadran, Izzatullah Dawlatzai, Amir Hamza Hotak, Shahpoor Zadran, Shabir Noori, Najibullah Zadran.
Dernbach ruled out for England
SURREY SEAM bowler Jade Dernbach will miss the remainder of the England’s one-day series against Australia because of a side strain picked up in Sunday’s second match of five at The Oval.
Dernbach was due to miss today’s day-night match at Edgbaston on compassionate grounds. He and fellow England squad member Stuart Meaker will attend the funeral of their former Surrey team-mate Tom Maynard, who died at the age of 23 in an incident on a London Tube line last month.
England have called Warwickshire seamer Chris Woakes in to cover the absences of Meaker and Dernbach.
First-choice fast bowler James Anderson missed England’s six-wicket win at The Oval with a groin injury, and his participation in the rest of the series remains uncertain.
Australia have also had their bowling stocks diminished after exciting teenage fast bowler Pat Cummins was ruled out after the first game of the series with a side strain.
The 19-year-old had only just returned to international cricket after missing the whole of Australia’s summer after suffering a foot injury against South Africa in November.
Cummins, who made his return after the lengthy absence in the one-day international against Ireland in Belfast, is also part of the Australia Under-19 squad for the World Cup, which will be held in Queensland next month. Ireland have been drawn in the same group as the hosts.