Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Boyd Rankin tipped to be an Ashes success

So close: Boyd Rankin against the Australia Invitational XI yesterday in Sydney
So close: Boyd Rankin against the Australia Invitational XI yesterday in Sydney

Phil Simmons has seen it all in cricket and he is cautiously optimistic that Boyd Rankin can be a hit in the Ashes this winter.

The West Indies legend was Ireland coach for all but the first 14 of Rankin's 82 appearances for his home country and, indeed, he saw all but five of his Ireland matches because he was with the squad in the West Indies for the 2007 World Cup finals where the Derry-born speedster finished as Ireland's leading wicket-taker.

So what were Simmons first impressions: "He bowled well and set the standard for what he has achieved since.

"Every time he was available for Ireland he was picked and, almost without fail, did the job.

"He took the opportunity to move up to the next level, it is commendable that he believed he could do it, and now he has got his chance to go all the way.

"Steve Finn is probably the England No 3 pace bowler at the minute, behind (Jimmy) Anderson and (Stuart) Broad because he has done it before. Chris Tremlett is coming back from injury and Boyd is the new kid on the block but he can certainly cause the Australians problems.

"The England selectors feel he can do a job, that's why he is part of the squad, and everyone in the Ireland camp wishes him well."

No-one knows Rankin the cricketer better than William Porterfield, the Ireland captain.

Just two months younger than the new England star, they went to the same school so from the age of 11 in 1995 they have not only grown up together but have played together for Strabane Grammar, Ireland and, to the present day, with Warwickshire.

Rankin, now 6ft 8ins, was always tall for his age so even in those days he was a fearsome bowler, as his future international captain recalls.

"He was always the tallest player in the age group teams so he was quite threatening. And he is still doing it today, he has that ability of causing problems with his bounce and pace, and especially in the last two years with Warwickshire he has been outstanding.

"I would go as far as to say that on his day he is the quickest bowler on the county circuit and that has taken him to the next level. He impressed in the one-day series against Australia and the selectors gave him the nod to make the trip to Australia as part of the Test squad. He definitely deserved his call-up and I don't think he will be fazed if he gets a starting slot in the Ashes.

"He is used to playing in front of big crowds, he has appeared in five World Cups so has played in pressure games against the best teams in the world and he can take that experience into the Test arena, if he gets the chance."

Porterfield's favourite memory of Rankin's bowling in Ireland colours was in Barbados in 2007, in the World Cup tie against Bangladesh, a game still described as the complete Ireland performance.

"That was a quick wicket and Boyd really worked the batsmen over that day," said Porterfield.

"I don't remember his figures (2-42) but I remember Niall O'Brien (the wicket-keeper) taking the ball over his head and I was just glad I was watching in the field, rather than facing him.

"He is more than capable of doing that this winter on the fast pitches in Australia."

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