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Irish have plenty in reserve with Shannon raring to go

 

By Ian Callender

It can't be fun travelling with a squad knowing that you are the spare batsman but James Shannon is in it for the long haul at the start of the new era for Irish cricket.

His reward for a runs feast last summer was a full-time Ireland contract, a place in the World Cup qualifying squad and a new kit sponsorship deal, with D&P Cricket, South Africa's leading brand, for whom his Instonians club colleagues Eugene Moleon and Gavin Rodgers have the distribution rights in Ireland.

Last year, when Shannon turned 27-years-old, it was decision time for the Northern Knights captain - was he going to give cricket one last push or try something else?

"With a lot of support from Simon Johnston (the Knights' coach), Cricket Ireland, my family and fiancée, they said, 'Go for it'," he said. "A couple of years ago I didn't think I would ever be back in, but it's where I want to be, so I'm delighted to be back and the group has been very welcoming."

Apart from a solitary Twenty20 international against Hong Kong at the end of 2016, Shannon has been in the international wilderness for the last four years, after winning 12 caps in the previous two seasons.

He only got onto this trip because Stuart Poynter pulled out but Shannon still sees it as reward for his weight of runs for Knights last summer (754 at an average of 54) and hopes it offers encouragement to everyone else playing representative cricket.

"It's important that guys see if you have a good year in domestic cricket you will get a chance. I understand I am the reserve bat but you never know what's going to happen. The nets are brilliant here and I want to hit as many balls as I can, so even if I'm not playing I'm match-ready when required," he said.

And although Shannon has played only one match in two weeks and faces the prospect of another four on the sidelines, he knows there is a busy fixture list ahead.

"With the amount of cricket coming up, you have to put it in a timeline. You learn as much as you can here and it may stand you in good stead in the summer or down the line," he added.

After today's final warm-up game against Scotland in Bulawayo, the Ireland squad fly to Harare tomorrow where they will be based for the duration of the World Cup qualifying tournament and although it doesn't help his prospects of playing, by joining a winning squad it has made his return so much easier.

"The way we've played the last 10 one-day games, once you get that winning mentality it breeds confidence and good feeling within the group. It's an exciting time, so I'm really looking forward to the tournament," he said.

Meanwhile, Cricket Ireland have announced that the new National Stadium in Abbotstown, west Dublin, will replace Malahide as the premier venue for internationals, possibly as early as 2022.

Malahide, Clontarf, Stormont and Bready will remain on the roster but with up to 60 home men's internationals in the next five years alone, a dedicated international ground was approved by the CI board.

Six more internationals have been confirmed for this summer, against Afghanistan. There will be three T20s at Bready on August 20, 22 and 24 with three ODIs to follow at Stormont on August 27, 29 and 31.

Belfast Telegraph

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