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Ireland are keen to move up the order on T20 stage

 

By Ian Callender

Exactly a month after the heady excitement of their inaugural Test match, the Ireland squad move into T20 mode when they take on Netherlands and Scotland in a Tri-Series in Holland next week, and the only way is up.

Ireland are currently 18th out of 18 in the T20 world rankings, but some of the specialists in the shortest format of the game are expected to be unveiled when the 14-man squad is announced this morning.

Chairman of selectors Andrew White was not giving any secrets away yesterday, ahead of the players being informed, but he was excited about the month ahead which culminates in the two glamour T20 internationals against India at Malahide.

"Some of the (inter-pro) cricket we have watched over the last few weeks has been exciting, and with the addition of some of the younger players over the next 12-18 months it is a format in which the selectors, head coach and his staff are very much looking for specialists," said White.

"Next week's Tri-Series is going to be great preparation for the matches against India and hopefully it will give a lot of players selected the confidence to go into that India series with the freedom to perform."

The second game against India on June 29 is already an 8,500 sell-out and has been sold as a double-header, with the Ireland Women's side playing Bangladesh in the morning as a curtain raiser to the main event.

"It's great we have the women's game first and hopefully the crowd supports both games," said White. "The women are very excited about playing in front of such a big crowd, and I know they have done fantastically well in recent times, and their series will also be good preparation for the Women's World T20 Qualifiers which take place in Holland in August.

"In many ways, both squads are trying to build on what has gone before."

Indeed, the women are first into action this month with a T20 international against New Zealand in Claremont Road, Dublin today, followed by three ODIs against the White Ferns on Friday, again at YM, The Hills on Sunday and Clontarf next Wednesday.

Cara Murray, of Saintfield and Waringstown, will be Ulster's sole representative in the squad.

White was reluctant to talk about the possibility, reported over the weekend, of Ireland's men playing a Test match at Lord's immediately ahead of the Ashes series next year, but he did say it would be the perfect opportunity to play an extra Test.

"I know nothing about it, except there were reports in the press that negotiations are ongoing about a match next year, but any chance to play Test cricket against the top nations would be welcome.

"Both Micky Arthur and Sarfraz Ahmed, the coach and captain of Pakistan, were thankful for the tough challenge they faced in Malahide and were full of praise for the Irish effort, and it no doubt stood them in good stead when they went to England (and won the first Test at Lord's by nine wickets).

But, to be fair to them, they saw the Test as really important, a stand-alone, and not just a warm-up match, and that is credit to how far Cricket Ireland have come."

As for Ireland's performance, White said it epitomised everything that was good about Irish cricket.

"We had the fighting spirit, the never-say-die attitude, the innings of Kevin O'Brien - four days of Test cricket that was Cricket Ireland in a nutshell," he said. "The way that Pakistan performed at Lord's put into context what a fantastic innings it was by Kevin because it was probably much harder to bat at Malahide.

"And not forgetting Stuart Thompson and Tyrone Kane who helped him get to his century and to set a challenging target in the fourth innings. It was something to be very proud of on and off the field."

Thompson and Kane were two surprise choices, so White and his fellow selectors could give themselves a pat on the back.

"We will not get them all right but we got those two right, and whenever you pick someone you hope they will contribute and it's no doubt they did," he added.

"Hopefully they will take confidence from the Test match and continue the upward trend in their own careers."

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