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New boy has earned opportunity, insists selector White

 

Front foot: Mark Adair bowling for the Northern Knights against North West
Warriors at Stormont
Front foot: Mark Adair bowling for the Northern Knights against North West Warriors at Stormont

By Ian Callender

The Ireland selectors have regularly been accused of sticking with the tried and trusted down the years. Indeed, it took head coach Graham Ford 14 months and 24 matches before he introduced a new cap in February.

But today, Mark Adair becomes the fourth player this year to make his debut and, based on two games in La Manga last week for the Northern Knights, he has been thrown into the front line against the best one-day team in the world. How times have changed.

Adair, who has moved this year from Holywood to defending Premier League champions CIYMS, was not even in the 14-man squad named for today's one-day international against England.

But when Stuart Thompson damaged his shoulder in training on Wednesday, ruling him out of not only today's game at Malahide but the upcoming ODIs against West Indies, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, there was no like-for-like replacement as an all-rounder.

Adair proved last week that he was, with a stunning 44 off 15 balls for Northern Knights against North West Warriors and, the next day, 31 from 12 balls against Leinster Lightning.

As Ireland chairman of selectors Andrew White explained last night, it was a powerful argument for inclusion.

"It's disappointing to lose Stuart and I know he was looking forward to the next couple of weeks," said White.

"We've known about Mark's talent for a while now and those who saw him play in La Manga last week will testify to the fact he has a lot of talent.

"We now have five bowlers in Boyd Rankin, Tim Murtagh, Barry McCarthy, Josh Little and Mark Adair who are capable of opening the bowling or bowling in the first 10 (overs) which, against a powerful batting line-up, gives the captain plenty of options.

"Mark also swings the new ball, so that's an option, and his hitting towards the end of the innings is something we want to look at. So, all things considered, that why he got the nod."

Adair's new Northern Knights captain, Gary Wilson, also sang his praises in La Manga after his second whirlwind innings, saying that "Mark can be anything he wants to be".

He went on: "The ball is 100% in his court with regard to that, certainly in T20 cricket. There's absolutely no doubting his talent, he is still getting better."

It was as a 17 year-old in 2013 that Adair was first mentioned in these columns, Then he was a dual sportsman, the Sullivan Upper pupil having just been selected for the Ulster Rugby Under-18 side and it was suggested he would have to make a decision on which sport to choose.

However, he had just been given a summer contract with Warwickshire - when current Ireland captain William Porterfield and then England's Boyd Rankin were two of the county stars.

The previous year, he had played for the Warwickshire Academy.

"I was there for two weeks and played eight games," he said at the time. "I opened the bowling and batted at six or seven, which is probably where I see myself, as a bowling all-rounder."

In the end it was an easy sporting decision. He stayed at Edgbaston for another four years, making his County Championship debut against Somerset in 2015, with England opener Marcus Trescothick his maiden first-class wicket, his T20 debut the following year and a first List A appearance in 2017.

Today he has the chance to take his first international wicket - and score the first of what he hopes will be many runs.

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