Andre Botha is the surprise inclusion in the Ireland A squad named last night for next month’s game against a Sussex XI at Chichester.
The 34-year-old, with 132 caps, will be given the chance to regain some confidence with the bat one level down in a strong line-up which includes five other players with senior experience, namely John Mooney, James Hall, Andrew Poynter, Phil Eaglestone and Gary Kidd.
The side will be captained not by Jeremy Bray, as originally intended, but by Mooney, with Bray confined to a management role alongside Adrian Birrell, Gavin Craig and Pete Johnston.
With Botha’s selection, the experience of Bray, it has been decided, is not needed in this team although the Ireland opening batsman at the last World Cup may yet play later in the season.
At the end of 2007, Botha was averaging over 32 with the bat, with four hundreds and 11 half centuries in his first 75 Ireland matches.
Since then, he has scored only two more hundreds and one 50 and his highest score in his last 33 innings is 33.
He will almost certainly bat at No 3 behind Hall and either Bready’s Chris Dougherty or Niall McDonnell of Brigade who are both in the 12-man squad, while Instonians’ opener Rory McCann has leapfrogged Fintan McAllister to be selected as wicket-keeper.
South African-born Albert van der Merwe, the former professional at Derriaghy and now qualified for Ireland and playing for The Hills, gets his first call-up to an Ireland squad.
Ireland A (v Sussex, June 8-10): J Mooney (capt), A Botha, C Dougherty, P Eaglestone, J Hall, G Kidd, R McCann, N McDonnell, A Poynter, E Richardson, A van der Merwe, C Young.