Hungry young England side should make for a cracking contest
Lack of Ashes players at Malahide should not be considered a snub
Boyd Rankin listens to England one-day bowling coach Kevin Shine during a training session in Bristol. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
The announcement on Tuesday of England’s one-day squad for next week’s RSA Challenge match with Ireland in Malahide was met with anger in many quarters at a perceived snub by the ECB of what will be the biggest game ever staged here.
Not one of the victorious Ashes squad would be making the trip – no Kevin Pietersen, no Jimmy Anderson, no Graeme Swann – instead a small collection of first-team one-day players backed up by second-stringers. And all led by former Ireland star Eoin Morgan, and with our latest export Boyd Rankin in line to make his ODI debut against his recent international team-mates.
How dare they steal our players and then pick them to play against us was the question many asked, some even calling for a boycott of the game from supporters.
In truth, the make-up of England’s squad was signalled from a long way out, with England’s concentration having always been on the back to back Ashes series against Australia. The bulk of their key players – skipper Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Ian Bell, Swann and Anderson – will also miss the five-match ODI series against Australia that follows next Tuesday’s game in Dublin, with just Kevin Pietersen, Joe Root and Jonathan Trott coming in from the main Ashes squad for those games.
The squad that will arrive in Dublin next Monday may include names unfamiliar to some, but it is packed full of some of the most talented players in the English one-day game, many of them in outstanding form from opening batsman Michael Carberry to Yorkshire’s hard-hitting Gary Ballance and the exciting Sussex all-rounder Chris Jordan.
You have to ask yourself what would you rather see, star names worn out after a hectic Ashes schedule going through the motions or hungry young cricketers looking for a chance to shine against a strong opposition in front of a full house of 10,000 supporters and live on TV.
And of course the Ireland players will sense a great opportunity of a first ODI victory over one of the major Test-playing nations on home soil, regardless of who is wearing the Three Lions on their sweaters.
This will be the fourth time that England have played here in an ODI, going back to their first game played at this level at Stormont in 2006.
In each of the previous three games, England has named three debutants, including Ed Joyce in Belfast and Jonathan Trott at the same ground in 2009. Two of the squad for next week, James Taylor and Ben Stokes, made their first ODI appearances at Clontarf in 2011.
Of course Rankin is in line to join fellow Irishmen Joyce and Morgan as an England ODI player if the 6ft 8in opening bowler from Bready in Co Tyrone is handed his debut, having already played at Twenty20 level for his adopted country.
Rankin’s stated goal when switching allegiances was the wish to play at Test level and he knows that he must prove himself in the one-day formats first.
Joyce admitted to feeling strange making his ODI debut against Ireland back in 2006 and Rankin says it will be no different for him if he gets the call.
“I only changed countries to play at the highest level and when Eoin and earlier Ed made the same decision, the Irish players were all happy that they succeeded at the next level,” said Rankin.
“The players, obviously, understand that but I’m not sure about the paying public. If I am there, I hope I won’t get too much stick,” he said.
That’s unlikely to be the case, although his former team-mates will not hold back, with the battle between Rankin and Ireland’s big-hitting opening bat Paul Stirling one to whet the appetite.
And enjoying the day’s entertainment courtesy of Cricket Ireland and team sponsor RSA Insurance will be our competition winner Brian McInerney from Shankhill in Co Dublin, who wins two tickets.
Brian correctly answered that Kevin O’Brien was the Ireland player that hit a World Cup record century off just 50 balls during the 2011 Word Cup victory over England in Bangalore.