Life after Kyle McCallan for the Ireland squad begins tomorrow in Dambulla, Sri Lanka and they could not have landed in a more difficult place to do without their most experienced player.
Ireland have arrived in the most spin-friendly county in world cricket without the man who has retired after bowling more than 2,000 overs in the international arena and, compounding his absence, Ireland’s leading wicket-taker of 2009, Regan West, is also still at home, facing eight months of recovery following a shoulder operation.
Slow bowling duties for this weekend’s Intercontinental Cup match against Afghanistan are entrusted to Andrew White, who has bowled more than 10 overs in only four innings, and McCallan’s 24 year-old team-mate at Waringstown, Gary Kidd who will be playing just his second four-day game.
Ireland know it is a must-take-maximum-points match, as indeed the remaining three games against the Netherlands, Canada and the Zimbabwe XI are, if they are to reach their fourth successive I-Cup final.
But Afghanistan, made up almost entirely of Pakistan-born players, have already proven in their first I-Cup tournament they can play under pressure, beating the Dutch by one-wicket in a low-scoring game in Amstelveen after comfortably holding on for a draw in a high scoring game in Zimbabwe.