Kevin O'Brien has been recalled by Somerset for Twenty20 finals day on Saturday, a tremendous boost for the Dubliner who led Ireland into the last game of the 50-over series against South Africa A at Stormont.
The one absentee today was John Anderson who has returned to work, but with Gary Wilson, the Surrey professional, replacing him in the squad, it ensured the starting line-up was not weakened. But a victory over the tourists seems as far away as ever.
The two four-day games, at Oak Hill and Coleraine, were halved in length by the weather but the South Africans had much the better of the two draws and although rain interrupted the first two 50-over games at Strabane and Stormont, there was enough play to ensure two emphatic victories for the visitors.
National Coach Phil Simmons knew that the games would be a tough ask for his players and even before the tour he said: “You can’t get better without playing games like this. Even if we get mauled at least we will know where we are with those who have come in. They will know how hard it is at this level.”
The one big plus from the first four games is James Shannon, the Instonians batsman, who has scored 125 runs since his debut in Co Wicklow and failed to pass 30 only once.
Sledged by the visitors during Tuesday’s game for not ‘walking’ after what they believed was a clear catch behind, Shannon’s response was to drive the next ball through extra cover for four. It proved the sometimes volatile player, who has been the Ireland A captain, this season has the temperament for the big stage.
He is probably unlucky not to be going to Sri Lanka next month in the World Twenty20 Squad but he is on the reserve list and only an injury away.
He will make his T20 debut for Ireland in the games at Oak Hill and Malahide next week and on the evidence so far he will up to the task.
The Under 19 squad will play Scotland early tomorrow to decide 11th place at the World Cup finals after losing their Plate semi final to Sri Lanka yesterday by 109 runs.
Ireland lost their last seven wickets for just 28 runs to collapse to 149 all out in reply to the Sri Lankans 258, bowled out in the last over as Ireland themselves took six wickets in the last 10 overs.
But although George Dockrell’s side reached 120 for three, Jason van der Merwe having to retire hurt after taking a single on 23, medium pacer Lahiru Madushanka became the first bowler in the tournament to take six wickets in an innings to rip through the Irish batting.
Sri Lanka 258 (49.3 overs, S Weerakkody 112 not out, G Dockrell 3-39, G McCarter 2-34)
Ireland 149 (37.5 overs, S Getkate 46, J van der Merwe 24; L Madushanka 6-24).