Cricket: Botha set to help Ireland run up a victory
Andre Botha seems certain to play as a specialist batsman in Ireland's last game of the season, starting at Clontarf tomorrow, the Inter-Continental Cup clash against Bermuda.
The North County all rounder bowled only eight of the 149 overs sent down by Ireland in the drawn game against Scotland because of a heel injury and there has been no improvement in the 11 days since the game at Stormont finished.
It obviously didn't affect his batting as he compiled the fourth highest innings by an Ireland batsman - he was in the middle for almost five and a half hours scoring a superb 186 - but Botha is likely to spend much of the next four days at slip, hopefully watching his team-mates bowl Bermuda out twice and ensure a maximum 20 points to kick-start Ireland's second successive defence of the trophy.
Given fair weather - and the forecast is good - it should not take four days. Ireland needed less than half the allocated time to dispose of Canada in last year's final, at Leicester, and Namibia were also disposed off inside 12 playing hours in their last I-C cup tie in Dublin. Bermuda are weaker than both those opponents but Trent Johnston says there will be no complacency in the Ireland camp.
"We were expected to beat an under-strength Netherlands in the first game of the Quadrangular series last month," said the Ireland captain, " But that went to the last over and Scotland recovered from 170 for eight to make 314 in the last match, so I will be drumming it into them at the team meeting - and so will Phil (Simmons, the National Coach) - that there can be no complacency.
"We have had a long, hard year and, with our World Cup success, a great one, so we don't want a hiccup at the very end."
The final selection of the season, however, should be no easier than Adrian Birrell's first, way back in January for the (one-day) World League opener against the Scots. There will be eight survivors and genuine excuses for the missing three. Eoin Morgan is playing for Middlesex, Boyd Rankin is injured and Jeremy Bray, despite being desperate to play, was not considered for selection after declaring himself unavailable for the previous match.
Although Ireland will probably not need the extra batsman against a Bermuda side beaten by an innings in Holland last week - they have also just lost their final match practice, two ODIs by 172 runs and eight wickets - Joyce will almost certainly play, probably as opener, to guard against the aforementioned complacency.
That will mean the pitch, as is only right, will determine the make-up of the side and with a touch of green in the Castle Avenue track, Thinus Fourie, 12th man at Stormont, will play, leaving Thompson to carry the drinks assuming the third spinner is not required.
Bermuda are boosted by the addition of three of the team which has just qualified for the Under 19 World Cup finals but they should be no match for an Ireland side which has lost only one match out of 14 in the competition.
And a win is really the only fitting conclusion at the end of what has been Irish cricket's greatest-ever year.
TEAMS - IRELAND (from): T Johnston (capt), W Porterfield, D Joyce, A Botha, N O'Brien, K O'Brien, A Cusack, A White, K McCallan, T Fourie, D Langford-Smith, G Thompson.
BERMUDA (from): I Romaine (capt), S Outerbridge, D Leverock, L Cann, J Edness, J Celestine, A Pitcher, R Steede, G O'Brien, R Masters, S Kelly, C Douglas, M Jones, R Trott.
Umpires: C McElwee, N Bagh.