Paul Collingwood, the England captain, struggled to convince the media yesterday about the importance of today’s one-day international against England.
The glorious Ashes success story and next week’s Twenty 20 internationals against Australia dominated the press conference and that could work in Ireland’s favour.
He said all the right things about being professional and getting back into one-day mode, that Ireland would be tricky opponents, but it was hard not to get the impression that the Stormont clash was an inconvenience this England squad could have done without.
“It’s a quick turnaround. The schedule is not ideal. In many ways it was nice to win (The Oval Test) in four days. It would have been very tough if it had gone into a fifth day,” said Collingwood.
“But it’s a one-day international against a very good side. We have to get ourselves up for it and put in a good performance.”
“It’s also a quick turnaround before the Twenty20s on Sunday and Tuesday at Old Trafford. And we have to get our brains switched onto one-day and Twenty20 mode.”
Collingwood is only the stand-in captain for Andrew Strauss in 50 overs cricket but he left no-one in any doubt that he was the T20 captain and he wants to keep the position.
“I enjoyed the Twenty20 World Cup. It was only three weeks work. I want to continue doing it in short stints. This is a one-off with Straussy not available but I want to keep doing it in Twenty20s. I’m still the captain in that form. We have six games before the Twenty20 World Cup and I want to be captain then.
“It’s important we have the same kind of beliefs and values among the team. Me and Straussy think much the same way and how we want the team to go.”
Collingwood was captain when England, embarrassingly, lost to The Netherlands in their opening World Twenty20 match in June so he knows all about losing to minnows.
“I played here three years ago and Ireland can be a very tricky team to beat. They’re well drilled, but we have to be right on the ball. We didn’t want to get beaten by Holland but all the planning then was excellent for that game, we’d a good meeting today and we’re ready for this game and hopefully we get the right result,” he said.
“All the players who have been involved in the Ashes and the others who have come in have a responsibility to keep the ball rolling. When Australia are on top of you they stay on top and make it very hard for you to come back.
“We’ve won the Ashes series and it would be great to stay on top of Australia. We have to put the hard yards in. It starts now and hopefully we can keep that same ruthlessness that we had in the Test series.”
Collingwood was also asked to defend the selection of Eoin Morgan in the team and, previously Ed Joyce, the two Dubliners who have abandoned their home country in an effort to play Test cricket.
Neither has reached that stage but both are now out of bounds to Ireland because they have played one-day cricket for England. Not surprisingly, Collingwood was unsympathetic to Ireland’s cause.
“It’s up to the individuals and the choice they make for international cricket. They are two exceptional cricketers and their choice was to play for England,” said Collingwood.
“But Irish cricket is progressing all the time. We have seen them without Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan and they are still progressing. It’s a tough position to be in, losing you’re top players, but Ireland are going to have to get used to it and they they are going to have to get along without them.”
So, what Irish playerrs could make England side
William Porterfield: England contender. Gloucestershire’s leading scorer in one-day cricket this season, the Ireland captain, still only 24 years old, has already scored 1,000 one-day domestic career runs.
Niall O’Brien: England contender. Some would say his wicket-keeping is up with the best in the county game and the Northamptonshire player is a consistent run-scorer at the top of the order.
Gary Wilson: England wannabe. Has been first choice wicket-keeper in Surrey’s one-day team this year but signing of Stephen Davies from Worcestershire this week could affect future prospects
Paul Stirling: England hopeful. Not 19 years of age until next week so plenty of time. County career seems inevitable and arguably better than Morgan or Joyce at this stage of his career.
Andre Botha: England miss. Almost 34 years old so has missed his chance, but if ankle problem is resolved still big part to play for Ireland.
Kevin O’Brien: England wannabee. Tasted a bit of the professional life with Nottinghamshire this summer and made good first impression with the bat in the one-day side. More to come with experience.
Andrew White: England miss. Had his chance with Northamptonshire a few years ago and didn’t quite make the grade. Never lets Ireland down and is already the second most capped player.
Alex Cusack: England miss. One of Ireland s two full-time contracted players but was 26 years old before he made it into the international team and will have to make do with being top all-rounder for Ireland.
Trent Johnston: England miss. Old man of the team at 35 years old but has new lease of life since given the other Ireland full-time contract. Today is his 30th ODI, 17 months after he ‘retired’.
Regan West: England miss. Too late to be considered but after slow start with Ireland has a chance to become leading spinner.
Kyle McCallan: England miss. Had fleeting glimpse of professional cricket many years ago but is satisfied with being an Ireland legend. Today, on his 34th birthday, he plays his 226th international.
Boyd Rankin: England contender. Could be next player to be lost to England. Enjoying his best county season with Warwickshire and was an England Lions reserve this year. Still only 25 years old.
John Mooney: England miss. Still only 27 years old but has been in the Ireland team, on and off, for nine seasons. Has played 19 of his 54 one-day games this year, so best years could be ahead.