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Double injury blow as Balbirnie and Thompson are ruled out

By Ian Callender in Dubai

Stuart Poynter and Lorcan Tucker are flying out to Dubai after Ireland suffered a double injury blow on the eve of the Desert T20 tournament.

Andrew Balbirnie suffered a glute strain and Eglinton's Stuart Thompson an ankle injury in final training yesterday in the Sheikh Zayed Stadium and both have been ruled out of the tournament. It is a particularly cruel blow for Balbirnie, who has not played since last February after a hip injury which required surgery.

Thompson also missed the majority of last summer with performance anxiety and like Balbirnie was hoping to stake a claim for a permanent place in the squad after impressing with the ball in Tuesday's warm-up game against a local UAE side.

Thompson's bowling is not being replaced as the two additions are both wicket-keeper/batsmen so, ironically, after the selectors chose to go with just one specialist keeper in the 14-man squad (Gary Wilson) they now have a choice of three behind the stumps.

Tucker made his debut in Ireland's last Twenty20 international, against Hong Kong at Bready in September, alongside Josh Little and Jacob Mulder, who are already in the UAE, while Poynter played in all nine of Ireland's ODIs last year but has not played in the shortest format since Ireland's last visit to Abu Dhabi, coincidentally Balbirnie's last appearance before injury

The first four days of the seven-day tournament are in Abu Dhabi and the Ireland squad made the two-hour journey to the UAE capital for practice at the venue which will stage their first two games, under the lights against Afghanistan tonight (3pm GMT) and Namibia on Tuesday afternoon.

All eight teams - they are divided into two groups - then return to conclude the tournament in the Dubai International Stadium with Ireland's final group game against the hosts on Wednesday afternoon (10am GMT).

The top two in each group - Afghanistan, Scotland, Netherlands and Oman are in the other group - qualify for finals day.

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