Trent Johnston and Peter Connell return to the Ireland team for today’s penultimate Friends Provident Trophy game, the day/nighter against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl.
Their selection will, undoubtedly, strengthen the bowling but it could be Johnston’s batting which will be just as important after the disappointing show against Nottinghamshire at Clontarf on Saturday.
It was the heroics of the bowlers which almost pulled off another famous win against a county as Ireland’s attempt to defend 140 was thwarted only at the death, by a boundary off the fifth ball of the last over.
Evan if the batsman had managed another 10 runs it might have been enough to win only their second game in the competition in 23 attempts but, not for the first time, a slow left armer proved virtually unplayable.
Admittedly it wasn’t just any SLA. Samit Patel could have been playing for England in the current Test match if he had been fit enough but England’s loss is Notts’ gain and career best figures of six for 13, from seven overs, ultimately won the game and kept the Group A favourites right in the mix for a place in the quarter finals. Hampshire, though, must win today to set up a likely, only-the-winner-goes-through game at Trent Bridge on Wednesday so Ireland will need to perform with both bat and ball if they are to get another sniff of victory.
Captain Kyle McCallan, though, is relishing the task, especially as it will be Ireland’s first ever competitive day-night game. The squad practiced at the ground on their arrival in Southampton.
“Most of the guys here won’t have played under lights before, it’s something different, it’s a lovely ground and people talk about the conditions changing at night, but we’re looking forward to it, weather permitting,” he said.
Looking back on Saturday’s game, McCallan admitted all the players were disappointed at how they batted.
“Patel bowled very well but no-one should ever get those figures in a one-day game. We felt we were 20 short at the end but when we had them 77 for five it was there to be won and we were very close against one of the favourites to win the competition. We will take confidence from that into tomorrow’s game.”
And when asked if he had any hesitation in asking his old sparring partner Andrew White to bowl the last over, McCallan had a one-word answer: “None”.
He then added: “It was a pitch very suitable for spin bowling but it was harder to hit the ball with pace off the ball. I was backing Whitey to do it and he was keen to do it. I put my faith in him and he very nearly repaid me.”
Meanwhile, Nigel Jones is in a squad of 14 for the three extra warm-up games Ireland will play ahead of the World Twenty20 in England next month.
For New Zealand-born Jones, the Civil Service North captain, it is his first call-up to the senior squad. Ireland will play New Zealand, at Derby on May 27, a PCA Masters XI two days later at Wormsley Park, Bucks, and the West Indies at the same venue on Saturday May 30.
Ireland squad: J Bray, R Stydom, P Stirling, A Poynter, A Botha, A White, A Cusack, T Johnston, K McCallan, R West, J Mooney, P Connell, N Jones, F McAllister.