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Bracewell's job in doubt as Irish eye up Afghans series

 

By Ian Callender

Cricket Ireland board members are this week set to give the go-ahead for a five-match white-ball series against Associate rivals Afghanistan, starting next month - but the position of the coach will not be discussed until the full board meets on June 12.

Ireland completed their four-match Tri-series against Bangladesh and New Zealand on Sunday with a third defeat out of three - the other game was abandoned - and only in the 51-runs defeat to the Kiwis in the second game was John Bracewell's side competitive.

Coming immediately after two games - one of which finished before lunch - against England, and a 7-2 series defeat by the Afghans in India, questions are being asked at every level if Bracewell is the man to lead Ireland into the new era when they are set to be awarded Test match status.

That decision will be taken by the ICC board on June 22 and by then the New Zealander will know if he is still in charge for the proposed Afghanistan series, due to start six days later. His contract takes him to the end of the Intercontinental Cup in December.

However, that series of two Twenty20s and three one-day internationals is still dependent on the Afghans agreeing to stop over in Ireland on their way back from a series in the West Indies.

Afghanistan have still not committed to the series as they, like Ireland, are waiting on the ICC's decision on Full (Test) Membership which will guarantee a substantial increase in money.

But Cricket Ireland will this week press them for a final decision so that they can plan for the series likely to be held in Dublin and Belfast with the ODIs provisionally in Stormont.

Cash-flow can be Afghanistan's only objection to the series as they have a confirmed fixture against MCC at Lord's on July 11 so rather than flying home - via the UK! - from the Caribbean and then returning two weeks later, it would make sense to play five internationals here.

Ireland skipper William Porterfield is certainly keen on the fixtures - and he is not just seeking revenge. If they don't go ahead, Ireland would have to wait 12 weeks for the next action, the I-Cup match against the Netherlands at Malahide starting on August 15, with the next confirmed ODI against the West Indies at Stormont not until September 13.

Tonight's fixtures: Twenty20 Shield (6.15pm): Donaghadee v Ards, Laurevale v Victoria

Faughan Valley T20 Cup (6.30pm): Brigade v Ardmore, Donemana v Drummond

Eric Cooke Cup: Burndennett v Bonds Glen, St Johnston v Ballyspallen

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