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County stars will miss Ireland ODIs

Ireland will have two more one-day internationals ahead of their next major test, against Sri Lanka on July 11.

Although dates have still to be confirmed by ICC, it seems likely they will be played the week before they head to Edinburgh for the tri series against the Sri Lankans and Scotland.

The opposition will be Namibia, immediately after the teams meet in the opening Intercontinental Cup fixture of the 2011-13 campaign, and the venue will definitely be Stormont, the NCU only's ODI ground. The I-Cup match will also be played in the NCU at a venue to be confirmed.

National coach Phil Simmons is unlikely to have his full squad at his disposal - he cannot force the counties to release players for games against non-Full Member sides - but Paul Stirling, Kevin O'Brien and George Dockrell will be available as Ireland have first call on their services, ahead of Middlesex, Gloucestershire and Somerset respectively.

The others, William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Niall O'Brien, Ed Joyce, Gary Wilson and the still uncapped Hamish Marshall, will only be available if their counties are not in action. It is not expected any will play in the I-Cup game.

With Stirling and Kevin O'Brien in their ranks, however, and a fit-again Dockrell, Ireland will be expected to win both ODIs handsomely against the Namibians, but it will be a valuable warm-up ahead of their attractive clash against the World Cup finalists.

The size of Ireland's task can be gauged by the performance of Pakistan over the weekend.

They won both ODIs with some comfort and Sri Lanka are two places ahead of their Asian rivals in the world rankings.

Captain Porterfield felt the difference between the teams was the class of off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, who halted the Ireland charge in Monday's much-improved batting display.

"Ajmal is a quality spinner and was the big difference, I thought. He is hard to score off in powerplays and also picked up wickets."

Ireland can expect another test of quality spin in Scotland next month.

Meanwhile, the NCU's Twenty20 Cup resumes tonight with the second round of matches in the four groups.

Most eyes will be on Pollock Park where Waringstown and Obus Pienaar enter the competition with a game against mid-Ulster neighbours Lurgan.

Waringstown have kept the big-hitting South African back at No 5 in the batting order for their league and 50-overs cup matches, but expect Pienaar to go in first and have the full 20 overs available to him in this competition.

Also playing their first matches tonight are main challengers North Down, holders CIYMS and Lisburn.

Tonight's games (6.15pm): Lurgan v Waringstown, Cliftonville v North Down, Downpatrick v Lisburn, Bangor v CIYMS.

Belfast Telegraph