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Rankin aims to put heat on rivals in the desert

By Ian Callender

Boyd Rankin will return to the Ireland squad next month for the eight-team Desert Cup Twenty20 tournament in the UAE.

It will be exactly a year since Rankin's second Ireland career started, and three years after his only Test appearance for England, but the Bready pace man has played only nine games in the green shirt and none since the two-match series against Sri Lanka in June.

A broken leg ruled him out of the rest of the international and county season with Warwickshire, but Ireland head coach John Bracewell hopes that the big fast bowler will make a difference and halt Ireland's recent slump.

Nowhere has it been so alarming than in the shortest format where Ireland crashed out of the World Twenty20 at the group stage last March without winning a game, and they have lost six of their last seven completed matches.

Rankin was part of that World T20 squad in India - indeed, he bowled only five overs in the three games with figures of one for 43 - but is one of 10 survivors in the 14-man line-up.

Two of them have been absent for even longer than Rankin, but Andrew Balbirnie (hip problem) and Stuart Thompson (performance anxiety), who were in the squad but did not play in the finals and missed the entire summer, also return.

"It's fantastic to have the three guys back in the squad," said Bracewell.

"Boyd's height and pace give an extra dimension to our attack and it'll be great for him to pass on his wealth of experience to Barry McCarthy, Craig Young and young Josh Little in particular, who just turned 17 last month."

Little, the left arm opening bowler at Pembroke, was one of three debutants in Ireland's last T20 game, the 40-run defeat by Hong Kong at Bready, and leg spinner Jacob Mulder, who is returning to CIYMS next season, also retains his place.

The other additions to the World T20 squad are Waringstown batsman Greg Thompson, who made an instant impression on his return to the international scene at Bready after an absence of eight years, and McCarthy, who has taken 18 wickets in his first eight games for Ireland - all one-day internationals - after making his debut against Sri Lanka in June.

The experienced Niall O'Brien and Tim Murtagh, plus Stuart Poynter and Lorcan Tucker, the other debutant at Bready, have been left out with Gary Wilson the only specialist wicket-keeper chosen for the Associate tournament, which will last only seven days.

Hosts UAE have yet to announce the schedule of games, but it is expected the teams will be in two groups of four, with the first game on January 14 and the play-off games to decide the final placings on January 20.

Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Namibia, Netherlands, Oman and Scotland are the other countries awaiting the fixture list.

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