Belfast Telegraph

Cricket: Johnston worried Intercontinental Cup final may be out of reach

Trent Johnston has admitted that lack of preparation ahead of the Intercontinental Cup match in Sri Lanka at the start of the year has probably cost Ireland a place in a fourth successive final.

The holders needed only 90 minutes of the third day at Rathmines to complete victory over the Netherlands yesterday but Johnston, captain in the absence of William Porterfield, knows they need to take maximum points hauls against Canada and the Zimbabwe XI in their remaining games to have any chance of sneaking into the five-day final at the end of November.

“The weather cost us victories in the first two games last summer but preparation before the Afghanistan match wasn’t great — (they flew straight out of winter into match action in Dambulla in January and lost) — but we just have to keep going out and getting 20 points and if we play against Canada the way did over the last three days I’d be confident of doing that,” said Johnston.

Resuming on 71 for four, still needing another 149 to avoid the innings defeat, Netherlands made just 65 as Allan Eastwood completed a fairytale debut with four second innings wickets for five in the match.

Albert van der Merwe took the other three and it is a confident Irish squad which will go into the first of two one-day internationals between the teams at Clontarf on Monday

The Dutch will be strengthened by the arrival of Tom Cooper, the player of the tournament at the World League last month, former Sussex batsman Baz Zuiderent and Mudassar Bhukari, but Johnston is expecting to win both games which will return Ireland to 10th place in the ODI world rankings.

He said: If we can hit the areas which we did today and build a partnership the way Andrew White and John Mooney did on Thursday and we continue to take our chances — our fielding was very good in this match — then I can’t see any reason why we can’t win 2-0.”

It was a smart catch at third slip by Kevin O’Brien which brought Ireland their first wicket yesterday and Gary Wilson, who was generally excellent behind the stumps, James Hall, at silly point, and Johnston held the others, the skipper’s a stunning one-handed reflex effort at slip off van der Merwe.

Ireland have added Andrew Poynter to the squad for the ODIs, the Clontarf batsman has not played since injuring his shoulder in the World League final in Amsterdam five weeks ago.

With Nigel Jones already in the squad of 12, Waringstown’s James Hall will instead go with the A team for the three-day game against Hampshire II, also starting on Wednesday.

Hall replaces Conor Mullen and Strabane's Phil Eaglestone takes his first steps back into the international scene after injury. He comes in for Eddie Richardson.

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