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Ireland need to do a Liverpool to win, admits Reds fan Balbirnie

 

On a high: Andrew Balbirnie
On a high: Andrew Balbirnie

By Ian Callender

Liverpool supporter Andrew Balbirnie was on top of the world yesterday and he hopes to have that winning feeling again at Malahide today when Ireland play their second game in the Tri-Series against Bangladesh (10.45am).

It has been a disappointing first two matches this summer, with defeat by England last Friday from a potentially winning position and then a 196 runs hammering by West Indies on Sunday when, he honestly admits, Ireland didn't turn up.

"The West Indies game was hugely disappointing, particularly after running England close," said Balbirnie.

"We just didn't show up and couldn't string many partnerships together with bat and ball. So it's important we look at areas we can improve and quickly look to rectify them."

Balbirnie, now Ireland's regular No.3, has looked the class act in both games, before one innings was controversially ended and the second violently interrupted.

Against England he had reached 29 from 44 balls when he was beaten by a ball from Joe Denly and, after what seemed an age, he lifted his foot and debutant wicket-keeper Ben Foakes removed the bails with perfect, if very belated, timing.

Two days later, he had scored 28 from 30 balls when he was struck on the helmet by West Indies' fastest bowler Shannon Gabriel, and had to retire hurt to undergo the concussion protocol.

"The stumping is in the book and that's all that matters," was all the 28-year-old Dubliner would say on his dismissal against England.

"But against West Indies I was moving quite well and I'm not even sure it was the fastest ball I faced in the game. I'm just disappointed I didn't deal with it better as I felt that myself and Kev (O'Brien) were building a nice partnership."

When Balbirnie returned, 40 minutes later, having passed the concussion tests, he lasted only four more balls before he pulled another short ball straight to mid-wicket, but was the third wicket to fall in the space of 17 deliveries as Ireland lost their last seven wickets for 33 runs.

Bangladesh won their opening game of the series, against the West Indies at Clontarf on Tuesday, a superb comeback after their surprise defeat to the Ireland Wolves in their warm-up game on Sunday.

"We were, of course, delighted that the Wolves could beat them and there were some brilliant performances that demonstrate there is good depth in the system at the moment," added Balbirnie.

"We are all just desperate to get out there and put in a much better performance than we did on Sunday."

James McCollum was the Wolves star on Sunday and his innings of 102, from 109 balls, should be enough to win him his second ODI appearance today, probably in place of Lorcan Tucker, while Boyd Rankin, whose extra pace and bounce were missing against the West Indies, is likely to return.

An early breakthrough, or two, would be a nice bonus for the Ireland bowlers after conceding a world record 365 for the first wicket against the West Indies, and Bangladesh openers Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar, who missed the Wolves game, then put on 144 on Tuesday.

Based on the first two games, Ireland may need a comeback of Liverpool proportions to claim victory today, but Balbirnie is not the only one on a high after Tuesday's night's action at Anfield.

"Tim Murtagh is another die-hard Liverpool fan and we watched the game together in the hotel bar with Lorcan Tucker (Leeds fan) and Paul Stirling, who I believe we can convert in the near future!" he said.

"Boyd is the other Liverpool supporter but he watched it from the comfort of his room. We are all still buzzing."

The first ODI between Scotland and Afghanistan in Edinburgh yesterday was abandoned without a ball bowled due to persistent rain.

The teams are due to meet again tomorrow, Afghanistan's last game before two ODIs at Stormont on May 19 and 21.

Tonight - Lagan Valley Steels T20 Cup (6.15pm): CIYMS v Carrickfergus, Civil Service North v Muckamore.

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