Ireland vs India second T20I - Ireland forced to play catch up but will be more competitive

Andrew Balbirnie’s squad still forced to work through off-field constraints when playing against the best

Second T20 International: Ireland vs India, Tuesday 4.30pm, Malahide, live on BT Sport

New season, new coach but it’s the same conversation for Ireland when it comes to playing the top teams.

“When you play against players that play every day and week-in and week-out, you’ve got to be really diligent in what you can try and achieve,” said head coach Heinrich Malan after his first assignment as Ireland’s top dog ended in a convincing seven wicket victory for India.

There were positives in the result for Ireland no doubt; Harry Tector’s innings of 64 being the obvious one while Lorcan Tucker’s dismantling of Hardik Pandya and Conor Olphert’s economical response to seeing his first ball in international cricket launched out of the park can also be referenced.

Yet Malan’s point about regular game time is the most salient. India’s players looked like they had been battle-hardened by a two-month stint in the world’s premier T20 domestic tournament, the IPL. Thanks to rain, the Irish players have played four out of a possible six interpro T20s this summer.

Through no fault of the players, Ireland’s preparation continues to be worlds away from the competition at the top level.

It showed from the first over. We all know Andrew Balbirnie’s quality and record for his country, but after watching two in-swingers to Paul Stirling he looked genuinely surprised when Bhuvneshwar Kumar offered him an out-swinger. It begged the question, when is the last time Ireland have played against someone who can move the ball both ways with such accuracy?

That’s the type of quality you miss out on without regular fixtures.

Then with the ball, Ireland initially didn’t give the ball much chance to swing. At one point during the powerplay, TV graphics suggested that 84 per cent of Ireland’s deliveries were short or on a length, in other words not deliveries that would move in the air a great deal.

“We spoke about that,” acknowledged Malan in reference to Ireland missing their lengths. “We were good for most of it but missed every now and then and were made to pay for that.”

Then there is the crowd factor. The noise of the Indian-dominated spectators can often be over-played, but it’s still true that Ireland aren’t tested in front of fervent atmospheres like that all too often.

“I’ve never played in front of a crowd like that, there was a real buzz and it was fun,” confirmed Young - Craig Young and all his 82 caps that is, not Olphert on debut.

Yet after starting slowly with both bat and ball in such a frenzied environment, Ireland showed they have the ability to pull things back and still compete - Tector reverse-sweeping leg stump full-tosses with the bat, Young taking two wickets in as many deliveries with the ball.

The beauty of the second game coming so quickly is that Ireland have a chance to be even more competitive now they have started to work past all the off-field factors that force them to play catch-up with the best on the field.

Pity the series is so short and they won’t get a chance to keep doing so against India after Tuesday evening.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist