England at Malahide a rare test for Ireland in 2015
William Porterfield’s side remain starved of chances against the big guns despite World Cup showing
Ireland face England in a one day international at Malahide next month. Photograph: Sportsfile
Ireland welcome England to Malahide on Friday, May 8th for a one-day international with the gap between the two sides arguably the closest it has ever been.
Both suffered a group stage exit in the Cricket World Cup last month, however the contrast between their departures down under couldn’t be more stark.
England’s lamentable campaign saw them muster just two wins against Afghanistan and Scotland and the fall-out has seen the sacking of ECB managing director Paul Downton and endless soul searching over the future of English cricket.
Ireland on the other hand were thoroughly impressive and ultimately unlucky as they managed three wins, two over Test-playing nations Zimbabwe and the West Indies, before a final game shootout against Pakistan saw them knocked out on run-rate.
Yet, while England will arrive in North Dublin the day after jetting back from a three Test series against the West Indies, the game at Malahide will be Ireland’s first competitive fixture since their seven-wicket defeat to Pakistan in Melbourne.
Simply put, Ireland aren’t getting enough cricket.
The lack of game-time against Test-playing nations is a source of major frustration for a side who have made such a habit of upsetting teams at the top table that a win over England next month wouldn’t really register as a big shock.
The ICC’s response to a positive showing from Associate Nations at the World Cup has been to reduce the number of teams in the 2019 edition to 10, something which doesn’t sit easily with seamer Alex Cusack.
“It’s a frustration they’re going down the route they’re going down. It takes opportunities away from us,” Cusack said.
“We’re just crying out for games and extra games against the bigger teams so we can get ourselves into a situation where we can qualify, if we have to qualify by getting into the top 10.”
Next month’s game will be a repeat of the 2013 fixture at the same venue, where Eoin Morgan scored a century as he captained a strong side visiting side to a six wicket win.
But with England’s short turn-around time between the Caribbean and Malahide, it remains to be seen how many of their big guns will make the trip, although this won’t necessarily benefit Ireland.
“I’d heard they’re sending a second string side with some of their bigger players in it but I think they’ve done that in the past,” Cusack added.
“It’s probably worse playing them because they’re up and coming guys who want to impress and do really well so you’d almost prefer to play the full team and try and get one over on them that way.”
Ireland’s man with the x-factor, Kevin O’Brien, is wary of a post World Cup backlash next month, explaining: “It’s going to be difficult for them, they’re going to be coming back from the Caribbean on May 7th so we don’t really know what team they’re going to bring over but we know there are going to be some very talented individuals.
“After the winter England have had there are a lot of places up for grabs so whoever comes here on May 8th is going to have a point to prove.”
As well as fixtures against England and then Australia at Stormont in August, Ireland have Intercontinental Cup fixtures against the UAE and Namibia coming up and will enjoy home advantage in the T20 World Cup qualifiers in July.
O’Brien said: “Winning the World Cup qualifying campaign in July would be a nice rubberstamp on the season. I think having home conditions we might start out as favourites.
“We all know what’s at the end of that carriage - a World Cup in India.”
Currently without a head coach following the departure of Phil Simmons for the West Indies, Cricket Ireland are hoping to appoint a new man by June.
O’Brien said: “It’s always the job of a new coach to take any team to the next level. Simmo (Simmons) did it when he took over from Aidy (Adrian Birrell) in 2007 and it’s going to be a difficult task.
“I think the squad he will inherit is a very talented one. It’s going to be an exciting time as a coach to come in and whoever that coach is I’m very excited to see who Cricket Ireland appoint.”
John Mooney, who captains Ireland A against the MCC at Lords next week, feels Test Match cricket should be the main aim for whoever takes over from Simmons, he said: “I’d be disappointed if Cricket Ireland went through the interview process without targeting somebody who is looking for us to make that next step up to be a Test standard nation.”