Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Cricket: Ireland’s World bid faces big test

Kevin O'Brien appeals as South Africa A's Richard Levi is caught behind

The countdown for Ireland’s World Twenty20 campaign begins in earnest next week when the South Africa ‘A’ side complete their month-long tour with four Twenty20 games.

It promises to be another stern examination for a side which has been outclassed in the other two forms of the game.

Ireland’s consolation is that only half of the squad that will be in Sri Lanka next month have been involved against this formidable line-up and the only possible addition next week will be Paul Stirling, although he is not available for the first game at Oak Hill on Monday — he will be making his comeback after injury for Middlesex.

The three-match 50-over series ended at Stormont yesterday without any of the Ireland players having a bat, the game abandoned due to rain after another dominant display by the Proteas who were 240 for four in the 47th over when the action was halted by the second and final interruption of the day.

There were hopes that Ireland could get out for the minimum 20 overs at the end of the day — their target score would have been 157, just about par for a T20 game — but the conditions were still too dangerous.

The highlight of the play that did take place was an undefeated century for Reeza Hendricks, the opening batsman, who delighted the sparse crowd with seven fours and five sixes.

Farhaan Barhdian, who was lined up to be the professional at Waringstown this year, before the arrival of Glenn Addicott, scored his second 50 of the series and was dismissed for the first time when Andrew Balbirnie held the catch at long-on.

The wicket-taker was Stuart Thompson who may have conceded 22 runs in his first three overs but continued his happy knack of taking wickets — it’s now 14 in his first five matches — with two in the first 10 balls of his second spell to give Ireland their high point of the day.

It went downhill fast after that, however, with rain taking the players off for an hour and from then it was all South Africa with Hendricks and Behardien adding 102 in 13 overs after the resumption.

Even Trent Johnston, replacing Peter Connell, could not contain the batsmen yesterday but Max Sorensen continued to show why Tim Murtagh is not an automatic selection for Ireland and Kevin O’Brien made the breakthrough, albeit 31 runs after he dropped his Somerset team-mate Richard Levi.

The strength of this touring party can be gauged by the players who have not been involved in the last two games.

Wayne Parnell, Ryan McLaren, Justin Ontong and Dean Elgar have all joined South Africa’s senior team for the ODI series against England, starting today, and all starred against Gloucestershire in their warm-up game on Wednesday.

In contrast, 11 of the 12 Ireland players on duty yesterday will be involved in club cricket tomorrow.

It will be disappointing if the majority do not play starring roles, before they head to Wicklow on Sunday, because it will be a serious drop in standard.

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