| 13.3°C Belfast

Curtis Campher savouring his rapid Irish rise after incredible half-century on ODI debut



Bat man: Curtis Campher impresses on his debut against England

Bat man: Curtis Campher impresses on his debut against England

Getty Images

Bat man: Curtis Campher impresses on his debut against England

Curtis Campher admitted his elevation to the Ireland side has taken him by storm as he tried to describe his feelings after arguably the most impressive Ireland debut since Ed Joyce 22 years ago.

Just 15 hours after walking off the field at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton with an undefeated half century - only Angus Dunlop and Joyce have scored more on debut in the last 40 years - and his first international wicket in the record books, South African-born Campher was talking to the media on a Zoom call, still pinching himself at his inchoate success.

"It's just been amazing so far, everybody has been so supportive," said the 21-year-old. "Me and Kev (O'Brien) just spoke about batting time and it was a case of just staying focused and not giving my wicket away. I just gave myself 20 balls, especially being five wickets down early, so I had time to make sure."

Then, when captain Andrew Balbirnie called him into the bowling attack in the 14th over, he took a wicket with his fourth ball and "one of the guys in the huddle, I don't know who it was, said, 'This is your day, you'll not get many more like this'."

Although Campher has yet to play a game in Ireland - his debut for YMCA this year was postponed by Covid-19 - he has been on the radar for four years.

"My grandmother was a nurse in the army, from Londonderry," he explained. "I got an Irish passport about eight years ago and in 2016 the Irish came over for an ODI tri-series with South Africa and Australia and I trained with them at my school, in Year 11.

"In 2018, the men's side came back again and I was selected to play against them in Pretoria and it went really nicely. That's when the ball started rolling. Fordy (coach Graham Ford) got in touch with me and ordered me a contract, and it's been onwards and upwards since. It's happened so fast, but I couldn't be happier.

"I arrived in Dublin in the first week of June and have really enjoyed my time, albeit without any cricket! I might go back to South Africa during our winter but I'm pretty much here all the time now."

Arriving in the middle with the scoreboard showing 28-5 would be a tough test for the most experienced performer, so what was it like for a debutant?

"I wasn't that nervous, I knew it was a hat-trick ball but I told myself to just focus on the ball and see what happens, and when I got through that first ball I thought, 'It's not so bad' and I was happy to do a job for the team," he said.

"My first ball (bowling) is a bit of a blur to be honest. I just took a deep breath, and it was Tom Banton I was bowling to, I'd bowled to him before, so I knew if I hit a good length I would be okay. Luckily the first ball was a dot and I was happy from then on."

Campher said the pitch was slower than the one Ireland had played on in their two warm-up games, "so when we thought 300 was par, it would have actually been over par, so we had to adjust pretty quickly. Unfortunately we lost early wickets, but the fact we also took early wickets showed the pitch wasn't as true as we thought it would be."

It will be the same pitch today for the second of the three one-day internationals and Ireland will be without Barry McCarthy for both games after an MRI scan yesterday revealed a tear in a muscle behind his knee.

Also missing again will be Boyd Rankin, who Cricket Ireland report is "managing a flare-up of an old back injury".

They have been replaced in the 14 by Peter Chase - whose last ODI was in 2018 but, according to chairman of selectors Andrew White, "has been bowling really well in the nets, having made adjustments to his run-up over the last six months" - and spinner George Dockrell, who failed to take a wicket in his five ODIs last summer.

Neither is expected to play, with Josh Little set to replace McCarthy in the only change to Thursday's line-up when Ireland's batting is expected to improve. It will be long odds that Paul Stirling, Balbirnie and Harry Tector all fail again.

Belfast Telegraph