Irish win points to a bright future
Ireland proved there is life after Trent Johnston with an emphatic seven wickets win in their final World Cricket League clash against Scotland at Stormont.
It was supposed to be Johnston's grand home farewell in an Ireland shirt but a "tired mind and sore body" ruled him out, so there was a first glimpse of his potential successors – and the future looks bright.
Stuart Thompson was given the new ball on his one-day debut and, although he had to wait until his second spell, he took two wickets at a miserly cost of just 20 runs.
And Eddie Richardson, given an extended bowl after his first appearance on Friday, carried his excellent club form with North County onto the bigger stage and was rewarded with his first two wickets in a green jersey.
There were no wickets for the spinners but George Dockrell completed 20 overs in the two-match series at a cost of just 49 runs.
And with the increasingly reliable Max Sorensen and Kevin O'Brien each picking up three wickets yesterday, it all added up to one of Ireland's best bowling performances of the season, Scotland dismissed for just 165.
That was never likely to pose too many problems to a batting line-up which had successfully chased 225 on the same pitch two days earlier and, despite the early loss of captain William Porterfield and Paul Stirling, so it proved.
Ed Joyce was poetry in motion when stroking 39 off 49 balls, with six fours, and the biggest surprise of the day was when he was bowled, beaten by the spin of Majid Haq.
That brought Gary Wilson (highest score 11 in six previous innings for Ireland this season) to the middle to join Niall O'Brien, but two consecutive fours took the Surrey batsmen past that unwanted mark and at the end he was 35 not out, his unbroken partnership with O'Brien worth 75.
O'Brien finished 65 not out, from just 70 balls with nine fours, his third half century in five innings, and while he may feel he should have the wicket-keeping gloves back, he continues to prove he is a member of the first-choice batting line-up.
Johnston admitted after the match that he had wanted the England match last Tuesday, in front of 10,000 at Malahide, to be his last home international but coach Phil Simmons insisted on a full-strength line-up for Friday's ODI which ended Scotland's hopes of qualifying automatically for the World Cup.
It proved to be a match too far for the 39-year-old who had bowling figures of 0-60 and he was excused duty yesterday, along with Tim Murtagh who was also complaining of a long, hard season after Friday's game.
Andrew White, playing his 224th international – he is now just two short of Kyle McCallan's all-time record – and Thompson were their replacements.
But all the squad were there at the end for the team picture after Porterfield received the WCL trophy from ICC global manager Tim Anderson, their winning margin certain to be at least five points as Ireland continue to prove to be in a class of their own at Associate level.