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Murtagh ready to quit Ireland to continue county career

 

Tim Murtagh
Tim Murtagh

By Ian Callender

Tim Murtagh, Ireland's most experienced bowler, is set to follow Stuart Poynter into the international wilderness next year.

Poynter this week signed a new two-year contract with Durham and because Ireland players are classed as overseas players from next season, he has effectively terminated his international career, eight years after his debut.

Murtagh (38) has told Cricket Ireland he will end his playing career with Middlesex but no announcement has been made yet because, with the new rule not coming into effect until the start of the next county season, Murtagh is still available to play for Ireland in the three one-day internationals against West Indies in Barbados and Grenada in January and a fourth and farewell Test appearance against Sri Lanka in Galle in February.

There is also the possibility of Ireland playing their second Test against Afghanistan in India in March - for which Murtagh would be available - but that five-day game is unconfirmed.

Poynter played 60 games for Ireland, the last his Test match debut against Afghanistan in March, but because Niall O'Brien and Gary Wilson were the first-choice wicket-keepers, he was never an Ireland regular.

Ironically his longest run behind the stumps was at the start of this year when O'Brien had retired and Wilson had an eye problem and he played all 12 games in Oman and India but he was discarded in favour of Lorcan Tucker, now number two to Wilson, for the Zimbabwe series in July.

Poynter scored two centuries for Ireland, both in four-day games, his best 125 when opening the batting against Zimbabwe A in 2015.

The only other player involved in county cricket this year was Paul Stirling but the 29-year-old has committed to Ireland and last month made the decision to leave Middlesex.

Murtagh needs to play three more games to reach 100 internationals and, even at the age of 38, is certain to be a huge miss from the Ireland attack next year.

He stepped down from the shortest format after the T20 World Cup in 2016 so is not with the Ireland squad which finished second in the the five-nations T20 tournament following Oman's victory over Nepal in the last game yesterday, the hosts' fourth straight win.

The squad head to Abu Dhabi today and will play warm-up games against familiar opponents, Netherlands on Monday and Scotland on Tuesday, before their first match at the T20 World Cup qualifiers next Friday, against Hong Kong.

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