Ireland's worst fears were confirmed as they took on South Africa in their own backyard and lost — spectacularly.
A second successive one-day international defeat by 200+ runs does not look good, but from the moment that Niall O’Brien slipped in the shower and banged his head to rule him out of Ireland’s first away game against a top nation, it was never going to be their day.
Two dropped catches in the first three overs set the tone and the fourth best team in the world is going to make any opposition pay if they do that.
But despite conceding 354 — the fourth successive time Ireland have conceded 300-plus against a Test side this summer — captain William Porterfield insists his young bowlers are learning.
“There can be a lot of negativity about, but that doesn’t bother us,” he said. “We have a lot of young lads, especially the bowlers, and it’s how they are going about it.
“The skills level is narrowing down, they still want to come back and bowl, and if they weren’t learning it would be a completely pointless exercise but they are and that’s a big thing.
“Our best ball is as good as their best ball and our best shots as good as their best shots, it’s just a matter of repeating it on a more consistent basis.”
However, figures of 0-80 are becoming a regular occurrence — it was Peter Chase’s turn yesterday — while Craig Young was almost as expensive, but at least he finished with three wickets, which was no more than the Bready man deserved as he could have had Quentin de Kock caught in the second over, if Stuart Poynter had been back on the boundary, and later saw a regulation catch at deep mid-wicket dropped by Sean Terry.
Terry was the batsmen brought in to replace O’Brien “because of his top order experience”, although the absence of Barry McCarthy (14 wickets in his first seven ODIs) in the attack was more difficult to explain, Porterfield simply saying “we went with the two bigger bowlers and gave them the new ball — they are Ireland’s future”.
Chase was the unlucky bowler in the second over when Temba Bavuma edged his sixth ball to Kevin O’Brien at second slip but he spilt the most expensive catch. The debutant was there for another 117 balls and added 112 runs to become only the second South African to score a century on his first appearance.
Tim Murtagh, who made himself available just 24 hours after arriving in the country and just 40 hours after winning the county championship with Middlesex, showed all his experience and was the only bowler not to concede a boundary in the last six overs when Farhaan Behardien and JP Duminy added 85.
Ireland’s batting got off to the worst possible start with Porterfield out lbw second ball after a television review, and although Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien looked good, they couldn’t stay long enough and wickets were falling round them anyway.
As Porterfield summed up: “You can chase seven an over, but not if you are losing wickets.”