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Knights are ready to flex muscles in pursuit of glory

 

Leading role: Gary Wilson will skipper the Northern Knights
Leading role: Gary Wilson will skipper the Northern Knights

By Ian Callender in La Manga

The Northern Knights are set to time their arrival in Spain to perfection this afternoon ahead of their first two games in this year's Interprovincial Cup.

The last of the three teams to fly in, they go straight into action tomorrow against North West Warriors, with the heavy rain which delayed the start of the tournament having given way to dry conditions yesterday, allowing Leinster Lightning and Warriors to get in some practice before today's opening match.

Only one of the three pitches here will be playable this week - two are flooded - and umpires Alan Neill, Roly Black and Paul Reynolds warned of a possible delayed start today. The outfield is lush, however, and conditions should be perfect for the Knights, who can field their strongest ever side in this the seventh year of the tournament.

Ireland T20 captain Gary Wilson, back home with Civil Service North, plays for the first time after 12 years in county cricket, and he has been appointed captain in succession to James Shannon, who scored 28 not out on Saturday, batting at No.4, to see his new side Phoenix to victory in their opening League Cup game.

Having missed Ireland's winter series against Afghanistan through injury, Shannon will be looking to win back his place in the upcoming Tri-series against West Indies and Bangladesh, which follows the one-day international against England at Malahide on Friday week.

Ireland head coach Graham Ford and chairman of selectors Andrew White arrived here on Sunday and will meet tomorrow night to select a squad of 14 for five ODIs in 13 days (May 3-15), and a possible sixth if they reach the Tri-series final on May 17.

Two ODIs follow immediately against Afghanistan (on May 19 and 21) and that squad will probably be selected after the third game of the Tri-series.

James Cameron-Dow and James McCollum are the other players 'in possession' after being capped for the first time in March, while Shane Getkate, restricted to Twenty20 internationals so far, will also be desperate to get into the ODI squad.

There are a record eight players with international experience in the squad, although Graeme McCarter hasn't played for Ireland since 2015 and CIYMS leg spinner Jacob Mulder and Waringstown skipper Greg Thompson made their last appearances in 2017.

Harry Tector impressed on the Ireland Wolves tour of Sri Lanka in January and is closer than most to getting a senior call-up, so two big games this week will do him no harm, while Mark Adair, another Ireland Wolves regular who has joined Premier League champions CIYMS, is more keen than most to step up to the next level.

Shannon and Thompson are the only survivors from the Knights team which won the inaugural One-Day Cup in 2013, but it has been downhill ever since and the NCU side have finished bottom of the table in the last two seasons.

Is this the year of the Knights' resurgence?

Knights squad: G Wilson (capt), H Tector, M Adair, J Cameron-Dow, M Ellison, S Getkate, G McCarter, J McCollum, R McKinley, J Mulder, N Rock, J Shannon, G Thompson.

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