IRE­LAND OUT TO STUN AGAIN

Hop­ing to re­live World Cup 2011 high against Eng­land

New Straits Times - - Sport - KEVIN O’BRIEN

LON­DON

Ire­land’s per­for­mances over sev­eral World Cups have left them on the brink of Test sta­tus — which could be con­firmed at the In­ter­na­tional Cricket Coun­cil’s an­nual con­fer­ence in June.

If they achieve that, it means the likes of Eng­land’s Ir­ish-born one-day cap­tain Eoin Mor­gan will have far less in­cen­tive to switch al­le­giance in pur­suit of an in­ter­na­tional ca­reer.

But Ire­land are cur­rently strug­gling to live up to the teams of the re­cent past that have done so much for their cricket cause.

In March they suf­fered chas­ten­ing se­ries losses in three for­mats to fel­low Test as­pi­rants Afghanistan. They now face an Eng­land side en­joy­ing an ODI re­vival and with gen­uine hope of win­ning next month’s eight-team Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy tour­na­ment on home soil.

Nev­er­the­less, sev­eral of Ire­land’s play­ers do have English county ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind them.

Tim Murtagh and Paul Stir­ling have played along­side Mor­gan at Lord’s-based Mid­dle­sex, while O’Brien and Ire­land coach John Bracewell are both fa­mil­iar with Bris­tol thanks to their time at Glouces­ter­shire, so the vis­i­tors should not be daunted by their sur­round­ings this week.

Murtagh, Eng­land-born but

It’s good to have those mem­o­ries at the back of your mind

Ire­land qual­i­fied through his grand­fa­ther, ac­cepted the team were in “tran­si­tion.”

“I’ve played against all the Eng­land bats­men, and I’ve got them all out — and been whacked around by them,” ex­pe­ri­enced pace­man Murtagh told the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent.

“We have to go in with no fear.” For Eng­land, Mor­gan will be mak­ing a fly­ing visit back from his stint in the In­dian Premier League.

But Ben Stokes, who struck a blis­ter­ing maiden Twenty20 hun­dred for the Ris­ing Pune Su­per­giants on Mon­day, fel­low all­rounder Chris Woakes and wicket-keeper Jos But­tler will miss the Ire­land matches to re­main with their re­spec­tive fran­chises.

Mor­gan said Stokes’s in­nings was an en­cour­ag­ing sign ahead of the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy.

“I think this just proves he can com­pete with the best,” he said.

“It makes us grow as a group, knowing we have a player who po­ten­tially is the best in the world. That’s huge.”

While Eng­land will be with­out sev­eral first-choice play­ers be­cause of the IPL, their squad does in­clude the likes of new Test cap­tain Joe Root, the big-hit­ting Alex Hales and fast bowler Mark Wood.

Yet who­ever they come up against, there is no deny­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of this week’s matches for Ire­land, par­tic­u­larly Sun­day’s fix­ture at Lord’s — ‘the home of cricket’.

“It’ll be a great hon­our and a spe­cial day for all in Ir­ish cricket,” said Ire­land cap­tain Wil­liam Porter­field.

“I smile when I think that both my­self and Eoin (Mor­gan) played for Ire­land Un­der-13s to­gether and here we will be cap­tain­ing both sides in a one-day in­ter­na­tional at Lord’s.

“It shows just how far Ir­ish cricket has come in a short space of time, but we still have more to travel and of­fer.

“Hope­fully it won’t be too long un­til we play a Test match at Lord’s.” AFP

DAILY MAIL PIC

Ire­land’s Kevin O'Brien was the star against Eng­land in the World Cup in Ban­ga­lore in 2011.

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