Ireland aim to seize the day if they get a chance


CRICKET:THE GROUND STAFF at Stormont spent yesterday battening down the hatches against the rain that threatens today’s RSA Challenge One-Day International against Australia at the Belfast venue.

Head groundsman Philip McCormick yesterday described the conditions as the worst he has had to deal with in his 15 years working there, with water pooling on the outfield, and more worryingly on the bowler run-ups.

The match officials last night called for a 6am pitch inspection as doubts grew about the possibility of there being any play.

And according to batsman Ed Joyce, Ireland will face another deluge if the weather does allow some sort of match take place.

Joyce’s only ODI century came against Australia during his stint with England and the Sussex left-hander believes Ireland will face a tough task in dealing with Australia’s slew of fast bowlers.

“They’ve a top squad, I think the thing that draws you is their quick-bowling battery. They’ve brought six quicks with them, two or three of those would be up in the fast category, so that will be a challenge for all our batters to deal with if we do get on and play,” said Joyce.

At just 19, Pat Cummins represents the new batch of express bowlers coming through the Australian system, while the evergreen Brett Lee and left-armer Mitchell Johnson provide plenty of experience.

Just three of the Australian squad remain from the game in Clontarf two years ago, when Ireland let a great opportunity slip by to record another Test scalp after openers William Porterfield and Paul Stirling put on 80 in the first 10 overs before a collapse saw the home side fall 39 runs short of a maiden win over Australia.

Michael Clarke, along with Shane Watson and Clint McKay, played at Castle Avenue that day. The Australian captain made a duck and admitted on his arrival in Belfast that he would be warning his team-mates against any form of complacency this time around.

“We’re here to play. We’ve got a meeting today looking at footage of the Irish team and we’ll be 100 per cent prepared for tomorrow,” Clarke said. “The one thing that impresses me most about Ireland is the way they play as a team. I think we’ve seen over the past couple of years that they all have their roles to play and when they do that they are a tough team to beat and they’ll be even tougher in their own conditions.

“We will look at the players individually; how they go about their work, their strengths and weaknesses, but as a whole the reason they have had success in the past is because they do come together as a team. We’ll have to play some really good cricket tomorrow to beat them, if this rain disappears.”

The return of Joyce to Ireland colours has been a huge boost to Phil Simmons in recent times, while his part in the decision of his former Middlesex colleague and close friend, Tim Murtagh, to declare for the country is likely to see him make his international debut today in the absence of Boyd Rankin through injury.

The conditions will be perfect for the 30-year-old, whose ability to swing the ball in both directions could cause serious problems for Australian batsmen still adjusting to damp summer conditions.

Left-arm spinner George Dockrell is also likely to prove a handful for the Australians after some very composed performances for Somerset in all forms of the game this summer, while Stirling will be out to show why he’s every bit as exciting as Australia’s David warner at the top of the order.

With Niall O’Brien back in the fold after missing the World Twenty20 qualifiers, it gives Simmons plenty of options ahead of naming his side to take on the world number one ranked side.

Asked yesterday to pinpoint just how far his side have come on in the two years since these sides last met, Simmons admitted that this time around his players know how to force home any advantage at this level.

“That day we maybe didn’t believe that we could win the match as much as we do now. I think put in the same position we would know exactly what to do to try and bring home the match,” said Simmons.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds but I think we’ve improved in the way we think about the game and how we play the game mentally from the point of you that we think a lot more about the situation when we are at the wicket.”

It’s over to the players, and probably more so the weather gods, to see if they can back up that confidence on the pitch.

IRELAND(from): W Porterfield (Warwickshire, capt), A Cusack (Clontarf), G Dockrell (Somerset), T Johnston (YMCA), E Joyce (Sussex), J Mooney (North County), T Murtagh (Middlesex), K O’Brien (Railway Union/Somerset), N O’Brien (Northants), M Sorensen (The Hills), P Stirling (Middlesex), A White (Instonians), G Wilson (Surrey).

AUSTRALIA(from): M Clarke (capt), G Bailey, P Cummins, X Doherty, P Forrest, B Hilfenhaus, D Hussey, M Johnson, B Lee, C McKay, J Pattinson, S Smith, M Wade (wks), D Warner, S Watson.

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