Ireland continue to move in the right direction, declares Ford
Ireland's Test match squad fly to England today ahead of a two-day game against Middlesex 2nd XI, their only red-ball action before the four-day game at Lord's which starts next Wednesday.
All but two have played some part in the one-day and T20 international series against Zimbabwe, which finished on Sunday, so it's a quick turnaround but head coach Graham Ford is happy with the progress.
He said: "We've come a long way since the Tri-Series in Holland last year and hopefully we will continue to progress at that sort of rate. But individuals have improved their cricket, collectively we have improved and it's nice to know we are heading in the right direction (after a clean-sweep in the three-match ODI series and drawing the rain-affected T20s 1-1).
"There have been only two complete days of red-ball cricket and coming off 50-over and T20 cricket and suddenly trying to play a Test match, it's got its challenges but it can be done."
Ford is always reluctant to name individual players but he admitted he was excited by "a few (power-hitters) coming through, but the key is to be able to set it up so that we can allow them (Greg Thompson, Mark Adair, Shane Getkate and Gareth Delany) to play with freedom to find the boundaries at the end. But we are getting better in both 50-over and 20-over formats".
The next top level white-ball action for the Ireland squad will be in the inaugural Euro T20 Slam, which will be played across three weeks in Amsterdam, Edinburgh and Dublin from August 30 and Ford says the tournament will be a "fantastic opportunity" for his squad, and preparation for the T20 World Cup qualifiers.
"It's exciting that it is going ahead and the chance to play alongside some superstars, to get information off them and just observing how they go about their business is going to be a massive opportunity for our lads," added Ford.
New Ireland international Gareth Delany will be one of the players involved in the Slam but yesterday was playing for Ireland Academy against the England Under-19s in Loughborough.
The Academy posted a creditable 210, but were bowled out with six of their 50 overs unused and England reached their target with five wickets and almost nine overs to spare.
Stephen Doheny was involved in three half-century partnerships with Delany, Rock and Anders but after he was sixth out for 76 from 89 balls, the Academy added only another 22 runs.
It was a good day for the Northern Knights with both the senior and Emerging sides beating a team of local professionals in T20 matches.
The Emerging Knights meet their North West counterparts at Ardmore in 50-games today and tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Derriaghy, if they win their quarter-final tie on Sunday, and Ardmore were given home draws in the semi-finals of the National Cup in their bid to bring the trophy north for the first time since 2014.
National Cup semi-finals: Ardmore v Terenure, Midleton or Derriaghy v Railway Union. Games on Sunday August 4.
SCORES: Loughborough: Ireland Academy 210 (44 overs, S Doheny 76, R Anders 33, G Delany 30, N Rock 26; England U19s 212-5 (41.2 overs, G Balderson 90, J Haynes 54; M Foster 2-36). England U19s won by 5 wickets.
The Lawn: WSX Professionals 163 (19.5 overs, O Pienaar 66, Y Cook 29; R McKinley 3-20, A Haggan 2-24, H Tector 2-25, B Rose 2-35) Emerging Knights 164-3 (18.2 overs, M Ellison 64, H Tector 60 not out). Emerging Knights won by 7 wickets.
The Lawn: Northern Knights 160-7 (M Adair 52, H Tector 44, M Ellison 30; G Hume 2-22, J Newport 2-38) WSX Professionals 157-5 (O Pienaar 60, Y Cook 56 not out; D Delany 2-13). Northern Knights won by 3 runs.