Belfast Telegraph

Monday 14 July 2014

Ireland cricketers seek polished finish

Ireland complete the international summer today with the third game of the one-day international series against Kenya at Stormont (10.45am).

It is the number of people on the other side of the boundary which should be as much concern to Cricket Ireland as the result of the game.

This will be the Belfast venue’s ninth day of international cricket in 2008 and to say that the crowds have been disappointing would be one of the understatement’s of the season.

From the two Friends Provident Trophy games in May — the first of which was gloriously won against Warwickshire – to the World Twenty 20 qualifiers at the start of this month, when the club programme was closed down on the Saturday and Sunday and the first two games against the Kenyans, the spectator interest has been worryingly low.

With cut price tickets and free admission to children accompanied by an adult Cricket Ireland has done everything to attract the fans to support what is, unquestionably, the best team in the world below the top nine Test playing countries.

The poor weather has, undoubtedly, been a factor in the low attendance at both the Twenty20 qualifiers and this week’s ODIs although Cricket Ireland confirmed yesterday that anyone who bought an individual ticket (£10) is entitled to a refund. So if you turn up again today you will get free admission.

When they get there the lack of information is also chronically lacking.

This week there has been no scorecards to read in conjunction with the scoreboard and any spectators not in the vicinity of the pavilion — where there are five loudspeakers — cannot hear any of the PA announcements. A spectator had to come to the Press tent to find out if the match had been abandoned!

It was also particularly embarrassing on Monday for the game to be called off, after just eight overs, while all three Premier League games which started finished, despite getting the same rainfall as at Stormont.

With only three ground staff and the heavy covers the damage had been done to the run-up at the far end of the pitch and indeed only for the Kenyans keenness to play, the match would have been called off as early as 2pm.

The teams waited for two more hours before everyone agreed it was still too dangerous to resume play.

With a dry forecast today at least there should be a full day’s play to end Ireland’s season and it would be fitting that the European champions, World Twenty20 finalists and leading ODI associate finish with a convincing victory before they head to Africa at the end of next month in a bid to reach their third successive Inter-Continental Cup final.

It will not be easy, especially if William Porterfield loses a third successive toss — the bowlers have enjoyed helpful conditions at the start of each day — and because Ireland are down to 11 fit players, one of whom has yet to take the field for his adopted country.

Boyd Rankin, after playing his first home game for Ireland, returned to Warwickshire yesterday for today’s county championship match, following Niall O’Brien, who played in the win on Sunday and with Kevin O’Brien and Andrew White both on the injury list, Ireland had to bring New Zealand-born Regan West into the team for his debut on Monday just to ensure they have 11 fit players for today.

So Gary Kidd, the Waringstown slow left armer, will play his first game of the week and Andre Botha is likely to be Peter Connell’s opening bowling partner.

Hopefully there are more than an extra few to cheer them on.

Ireland team: W Porterfield (captain), G Wilson, P Stirling, A Botha, A Cusack, R West, A Poynter, R Strydom, K McCallan, G Kidd, P Connell.

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