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Bracewell confident Singh can hit the high notes with Ireland

 

By Ian Callender

SIMI Singh, the YMCA all-rounder, is the one new face in the Ireland squad for the Tri-series against New Zealand and Bangladesh, starting in Malahide on Friday.

Singh, who has just received his Irish citizenship, enjoyed a successful Ireland Wolves tour in the west of England last month and he replaces North West Warriors skipper Andy McBrine in the only change to the squad that lost both one-day internationals in England.

It is a big blow to McBrine, who was left out of the historic games at Bristol and Lord's, as Singh is also an off-spinning all-rounder, but the selectors believe he is the in-form player.

McBrine has been named in the Ireland Wolves squad for this week's games against the New Zealanders and a Bangladesh XI, but it must be seen as a demotion after playing in four of the ODIs against Afghanistan in March; he averaged 7.66 with the bat and 41.3 with the ball, although he conceded only 124 runs in his 32 overs.

Explaining Singh's inclusion, on the back of 189 runs in three completed innings and seven wickets on the pre-season Wolves tour, head coach John Bracewell said: "He is an intelligent cricketer who can adapt to all situations. He strikes the ball very cleanly, has good technique and scores all round the wicket.

"His bowling is strong with subtle variations, mixing up his pace and he extracts good turn and bounce from the pitch."

If a second spinner is required, the 30-year-old will certainly make his debut, possibly in the first match against Bangladesh on Friday.

Ireland captain William Porterfield highlighted the importance of this week's Wolves games when he defended the accusation that Ireland are on their worst run in recent memory.

"It's a pretty big assumption to say that," he said. "We have played Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa, now England. It's the best run of games we have ever been on and while it's what we want, we need games in between them so that lads can step into these games.

"That's the gap that needs to be bridged in my opinion, we have an A team (Wolves) programme to give us depth to the squad. Remember, after the Tri-series all we have confirmed is the four-day (Intercontinental Cup) game against Holland and a one-day game against West Indies plus the inter-pros."

There is no denying the quality of opposition Ireland have been up against in the last 12 months and the strength of the England side is underlined by two revealing statistics. Since the 2015 World Cup, the England ODI squad have scored an average of 6.26 runs per over and scored 300+ in seven of their last eight games.

So, it was to the credit of Ireland (the lowest ranked team England have faced in two years) that England's run rate over the weekend was 6.35 and 6.56, barely above the average.

Paul Stirling also became the first player to score 36 runs in the first seven overs in an ODI against England since 2001 and his partnership with Joyce was the best opening stand against England for 15 years - backing up Porterfield's defence that all is not bad with this Ireland team.

Ireland squad: W Porterfield (capt), A Balbirnie, P Chase, G Dockrell, E Joyce, T Murtagh, B McCarthy, K O'Brien, N O'Brien, S Singh, P Stirling, S Thompson, G Wilson, C Young

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