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Balbirnie proves to be a big hit as Ireland crank up Test preparation

By Ian Callender

The bowlers enjoyed much the better of the first day of the intra-squad trial game yesterday as the best of Ireland's home-based players got their first taste of red-ball action ahead of next month's Test match.

Tyrone Kane, the workhorse of Team 2 (effectively the possibles) finished with five of the 10 wickets to fall as Team 1 (the probables) scored 286. The roles will be reversed today when the teams will play another 90 overs.

Andrew Balbirnie was the one batsman who dominated, retiring after bringing up a boundary-laden century from 163 balls.

In all he hit 20 fours, which was just three fewer than the other 14 individual innings.

Andy McBrine and Shane Getkate were the other two batsmen 'retired', at the end of the 68th over when Ed Joyce and Kevin O'Brien returned for their second innings, to be followed by William Porterfield, Harry Tector, Stuart Thompson and McBrine.

Joyce actually spent more time in the nets yesterday than in the middle - he faced only 17 balls in his two innings for 10 runs but he dispelled any doubts about his fitness and is a certainty to play his first Test, at the age of 39, against Pakistan.

Porterfield will be captain and after missing the Somerset game this month it was good to see him spend time in the middle - he faced 136 balls over his two innings, scoring 53.

Niall O'Brien, a certainty for a Test match debut like his brother Kevin, was again the most attacking player on view, taking 14 off four balls off Fionn Hand but then played on; Kevin used up two innings scoring 24.

Craig Young picked up where he left off at Bready on Saturday - he had figures of 6-10 from seven overs - but this time the wickets column stayed blank, although he again conceded fewer than two runs an over.

Kane's five wickets in 18 overs included Joyce twice, but George Dockrell, fighting for a place in the Test squad, had to be satisfied with 1-45 from 15 overs.

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