Cricket: Johnston to examine Ireland’s options
Ireland get an instant chance to make up for the disappointment of failing to close out victory against world champions Australia when they meet the touring West Indies A side at Stormont tomorrow in the first of two one-day games (10.45am start).
The middle order batsmen, who lost their way either through weight of expectation or lack of form, will be under the closest scrutiny when they face an attack which is likely to be as strong as they faced at Clontarf last week.
Captain William Porterfield, Niall O’Brien and Boyd Rankin have all returned to their counties and Trent Johnston is also set to sit out the game to give his bruised thumb an extra couple of days rest. It will also, as Johnston admitted last night, give him a chance to have a look at the new faces in the side.
“If it was a crunch game, I would have been a certain starter, but we’ve another game on Friday and I’ll be keen to play in that one,” said Johnston.
“A lot of movement is back in the thumb and the swelling had gone right down and the only way I wouldn’t be fit to play is if I took a knock when fielding.
“The game will give me a chance to see how the boys perform. Andrew Poynter, has been one of the best batsmen in club cricket this year and it’s great to have him back, I hear Nigel Jones got a big 100 on Saturday and I’ll get a chance to see Albert van der Merwe for the first time.”
The latter will be the one new cap in the Ireland team and with the pitch looking as if it will take spin the off spinning all rounder may have to join the queue behind the returning George Dockrell and Paul Stirling, who had Ricky Ponting as one of his two victims last week..
If Johnston doesn’t play, Ireland will be captained by Kevin O’Brien who, along with Andrew White and Gary Wilson, will be keen to express themselves with the bat after failing to follow up the magnificent start which Porterfield and Stirling gave Ireland against the Aussies.
The other returning face and certain to have the new ball tomorrow is Strabane’s Phil Eaglestone who replaces Peter Connell, but without Johnston, it will be the debutant captain who will likely be the other opening bowler with Alex Cusack and Jones the back-up.
The West Indies A attack will be led by Lionel Baker, who has played 10 ODIs and Gavin Tonge, who made his Test debut against Australia in Perth last December while Andre Russell and David Barnard will be well known to the Ireland players who were in Jamaica in April.
Meanwhile, North Down and CIYMS were handed the home ties in the draw for the semi-final of the Challenge Cup, made last night.
NCU Challenge Cup semi-final draw: North Down v Civil Service North (on Saturday July 3), CIYMS v Waringstown (Sunday July 4).