Gayle force warning for Irish as West Indies roll out the big guns
The West Indies are coming to Stormont next month and the star attraction is set to be Chris Gayle.
Gayle is not part of the Windies squad currently playing a Test series in England - the second match starts in Leeds on Friday - but, as revealed in the Belfast Telegraph on Monday, he has made himself available for the sole Twenty20 international and the five-match one-day series between the teams next month.
Between the fourth and final Test match and the T20, West Indies travel to Belfast for a one-off ODI so it seems certain that Gayle will make his return to the fold against Ireland on September 13.
The match takes place just eight days before his 38th birthday but Gayle remains one of the gun players in the limited overs game - he scored 215 against Zimbabwe at the 2015 World Cup in Canberra - although a dispute, mainly over money, has left many of their stars out of the West Indies side.
Indeed, there is almost a full team not in England at the moment, preferring to play in the ongoing Caribbean (T20) League.
Gayle has played only one match for the side since the 2015 World Cup, a one-off T20 game against India last month, after an amnesty was agreed between the West Indies Cricket Board and the players, but he is set to be a thorn in Ireland's side over the next 12 months as he has stated his ambition is to play at the 2019 World Cup.
That means Ireland will most likely come up against him in the World Cup qualifying tournament next year in Zimbabwe as only the top eight Full Member nations by the end of next month qualify automatically for the finals - and West Indies are currently ninth. They are so far behind that defeat at Stormont would confirm their place in the qualifying tournament even if they go on to beat England 5-0!
The 15-man squad, which also includes Marlon Samuels, another of the players who has been 'out in the cold', was released on the day Cricket Ireland formally announced the fixture, complete with ticket details for the match.
Ireland captain William Porterfield is excited that Ireland will face a fellow Full Member nation for the first time.
"It's fantastic that we have West Indies in Belfast next month for the first ODI since we obtained Full Member status," he said.
"It's the start of a new era in Irish cricket and one which is hugely exciting for players and fans alike.
"We've beaten the West Indies in both T20 and ODI cricket in recent times, so hopefully we can be successful again in Belfast."
That ODI victory was the last meeting between the teams, at the 2015 World Cup in Nelson, New Zealand when Gayle actually dismissed Porterfield. But after George Dockrell had Gayle caught for 36, Ireland chased down the Windies' 304-7 to win by four wickets with more than four overs to spare.
Cricket Ireland President Brian Walsh is delighted his home city is hosting West Indies for the first time in 13 years.
"It's great that Belfast is once again hosting top level international cricket. I'm certain the next generation of young cricketers will be inspired by the presence of top international cricketers in Belfast," he said.
"It was here at Stormont when we beat West Indies in 2004, and there have been other famous wins, including that World Cup win two years ago and, of course, none more famous than the 1969 win at Sion Mills when we bowled them out for 25. That win reverberated around the world."
To celebrate the launch of the game, Cricket Ireland are having a special 'Green Weekend' when fans can avail of a 20% discount on tickets purchased from this Friday to Sunday.
Details are available from www.cricketireland.ie and tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.co.uk
West Indies squad: J Holder (capt), S Ambris, D Bishoo, M Cummins, C Gayle, K Hope, S Hope, A Joseph, E Lewis, J Mohammed, A Nurse, R Powell, M Samuels, J Taylor, K Williams.