Rain checks start of Irish summer while clouds gather for England

Cricket Ireland will offer free tickets to fans who attended washed out ODI at Malahide

Storm clouds – for Ireland literal, England metaphoric – summed up a bizarre and frustrating day of cricket at Malahide on Friday, with just 18 overs bowled in the Royal London One-Day International  before the forecast rain arrived in from the south.

It ended a contest that saw Ireland batsman play shots more suited to their last World Cup outing against Pakistan at the Adelaide Oval and not a stodgy, green-tinged seamer in the middle of a May monsoon.

Put in to bat, Ireland lost Paul Stirling to a brilliant direct hit from England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, but skipper William Porterfield, Niall O'Brien and Andrew Balbirnie were all out playing shots that they may never have even contemplated if they knew there was any real chance that a match would be possible.

“We knew it was obviously going to do a bit . . . but it wasn’t in any way a bad wicket,” Porterfield admitted after play was finally abandoned following a second inspection at 3pm. “We were four down pretty quickly, but I wouldn’t say the wicket contributed to a lot of the dismissals.


“We nicked a few and it’s just kind of petered out into one of those days.”

Ed Joyce stuck to his task, giving the crowd something to warm their hands as they applauded the first of his two boundaries as he square drove Tim Bresnan to the fence.

The ground was only half-full during the hour of play, with many ticket holders obviously taking a rain-check. The odd brolly did start to appear around the temporary stands, although past the 10.1 over mark that would have entitled punters to a refund from Cricket Ireland.

The on-field umpires, Belfast's Mark Hawthorne and Scot Ian Ramage, kept the players on the field while the rain remained light, but it gradually got heavier, forcing the decision with Ireland on 56 for four.

England had named five debutants in their side, the most in an ODI in 19 years, with Durham's Mark Wood and left-armer David Willey both claiming their first international wickets. Zafar Ansari, Jason Roy and James Vince will hope they'll get another chance to display their undoubted talents.

From an England perspective the action off the pitch was of more interest to their travelling media contingent, with Sky Sports presenter Ian Ward confirming at the start of their live broadcast that former captain Andrew Strauss, who was scheduled to be in the commentary box, had pulled out and that it was "highly likely that he will be the new [England] cricket director, and if that appointment does go ahead it will be announced next week."

Strauss’s arrival will mark the end of Peter Moores’s second stint as coach of England, with the fall-out from last year’s 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia showing no sign of coming to an end anytime soon.

England's disastrous World Cup campaign and failure to win the recent Test series against a West Indies side rejuvenated by the coaching of Phil Simmons had ramped up the pressure on Moores, but in truth his arrival in the wake of Andy Flower's departure always seemed destined to end in tears.

Australians Jason Gillespie and Justin Langer have been mentioned as possible replacements for Moores, with the appointment of either an intriguing one ahead of an Ashes summer.

Ireland's new coach John Bracewell, who watched the play that took place from his perch outside the home dressingroom , said on Wednesday that he didn't envy Moores's position. Yesterday, as the rain fell and the rumours swirled, he no doubt had sympathy with his plight.

Meanwhile, Cricket Ireland have made an offer of complimentary tickets to fans left out of pocket, and cricketing action, by the abandonment.

Over 9,000 tickets were sold for the game, although nowhere near that number turned up with a forecast that had gotten worse as the game approached.

A full refund would have been available if less than 10.1 overs play was possible, but ticket holders have a choice of tickets for the final weekend of the World T20 Qualifier at Malahide at the end of July, or the three match T20 series against Scotland at Bready in mid-June.

Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom sympathised with supporters, saying: "We're desperately sorry for them, there's a lot of people who've spent a lot of money, not just being here, but travelling here and taking time off work."

Emmet Riordan

Emmet Riordan

Emmet Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist