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It's a testing time for Ireland

 

By Ian Callender

It was always going to be tough for Ireland on their return to red-ball cricket but, five weeks out from their first Test match, it was worrying that there was no improvement on the penultimate day of their four-day game against Somerset.

Bowled out on the stroke of lunch for 147 - a first-innings deficit of 195 - the county plundered another 240 in 55 overs by the close and with Somerset's second declaration expected overnight, Ireland's only objective will be to bat out the day to earn a face-saving draw.

The best that could be said for the bowlers, who managed only two wickets, was that they all came back for more, even Craig Young - in his first appearance for Ireland for 11 months - conceding only three singles in two overs. However, his other eight overs went for 62 and that summed up the Ireland attack. They could not keep the ball one side of the wicket and their length was just as wayward.

At least Boyd Rankin, after a disappointing first innings, was more impressive yesterday and took the only wicket to fall to a bowler in the first 48 overs, but even that was a leg side delivery which Marcus Trescothick touched to the wicket-keeper, four short of his century.

Opening partner Eddie Brymon took his undefeated runs tally to 151, from almost eight hours at the crease, before he retired at tea to give George Bartlett a chance to make up for his duck on the first day - he duly scored a half century - and although Barry McCarthy found the edge of his bat 25 minutes before the close, it was barely a consolation on a day which ended with shadows on the pitch.

In contrast, the batsmen had to start in overcast, bowler-friendly conditions and, resuming on 72 for three, they failed to survive the first session. Niall O'Brien (50 off 58 balls with eight fours) batted with confidence and fluency but McCarthy (13) was the only other to make double figures.

The highest partnership was an unsatisfactory 41 for the sixth wicket between Niall and Kevin O'Brien, who showed the right application but having scored eight from 32 balls joined the procession back to the pavilion, caught at slip.

On a fourth-day pitch, batting will be no easier today but the batsmen, for their own pride, must do much better. It is going to be even tougher next month.

Belfast Telegraph

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