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Ford and Cassell making their mark ahead of Scottish test

 

By Ian Callender

The team may look familiar but there was definitely a new feel about the Ireland squad when they completed their final practice session ahead of today's Intercontinental Cup game against Scotland in Dubai.

John Bracewell is still head coach, but included in a backroom staff of six is his successor Graham Ford and, involved in his first match despite being appointed assistant coach last May, Rob Cassell.

The South African, who will take over after Bracewell's debrief of this tour in two weeks' time, was throwing down balls in the nets, and Aussie Cassell has made a big impression on the pace bowlers in his dual role as assistant and Lead Fast Bowling coach.

While Cricket Ireland are delighted with Ford as their "prime catch" to take them into the new era as a Test team, Cassell has come in under the radar. Visa difficulties delayed his arrival until the West Indies game at Stormont - which was washed out - but he also has a tremendous reputation having filled a similar role with South Australia for five years, during which they won two Sheffield Shield titles.

The proof, as always, will be in the result and, although Bracewell did not confirm his last I-Cup selection to the squad last night, it is sure to be packed with experience, despite the absence of Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien from the original selection.

It means that John Anderson will have the chance to score a seventh half century in the competition in his seventh match, behind skipper William Porterfield, Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie, who scored 205 in his last I-Cup match against the Netherlands at Malahide.

Boyd Rankin, who took five wickets in the first innings against the Dutch, is fit to lead the bowling attack, almost certainly with Tim Murtagh and Peter Chase, and the only possible doubt in the coach's mind was to find room for both Simi Singh and Jacob Mulder alongside No.1 slow bowler George Dockrell.

The squad is staying in the same hotel as five of the other teams involved in this week's final round of I-Cup games, including Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea who are playing their four-day game in Sharjah.

It means a hotel departure each day at 6.45am.

Meanwhile it has been confirmed that all three one-day internationals against Afghanistan in Sharjah will be day/night games starting at 2.30pm (10.30am GMT).

The Ireland squad will get their first practice under the lights on Monday, ahead of the opening game on Tuesday.

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