Monday, July 12, 2010

Simmons backs Ireland to beat Bangladesh

National coach Phil Simmons was today still trying to confirm a replacement for Andrew Poynter for the two one-day internationals against Bangladesh at Stormont on Thursday and Friday.

Poynter travelled home from Ireland’s successful World League Division One campaign yesterday with his arm in a sling after falling on his shoulder when fielding during their six wicket victory over Scotland in Saturday’s final in Amstelveen.

He is not only ruled out of contention for Ireland’s most important games of the summer, but also the last two games of the European Championships which start tomorrow in Jersey. Poynter was due to captain the Ireland A team at the tournament

“We have a lot of selection problems, but while Bangladesh will expect to beat us at home, we have the edge over here. We play well at home and we look forward to that,” said Simmons, who was delighted with the response of his understrength team as they swept through the tournament with a 100% record.

“We knew we needed the big players to perform and they consistently came up at the right time, so we ended up successful. The pressure was on the batters to come to the fore because the bowlers didn’t bowl as well as they have been, but the batsmen did it two or three times in the tournament.”

Poynter, who scored 77 in the victory over Afghanistan in the round-robin stage, wasn’t missed in the final because of a superb fourth wicket stand of 162 between Kevin O’Brien and Andrew White. Only the retired Kyle McCallan has played more Ireland games than White and only the injured Andre Botha and Trent Johnston more than O’Brien’s 124 and their experience stood them in good stead as they rescued Ireland from 51 for three, in pursuit of Scotland’s 232.

It needed a stunning one-handed catch by Richie Berrington to dismiss White for 79 — his best in an ODI — but O’Brien went on to finish 98 not out. The fact he scored only seven boundaries — three of them sixes — underscored his disciplined innings while White, 10 years after his debut, continues to prove why he should be one of the first names on any Ireland teamsheet.

And Ireland didn’t need John Mooney either. Surely, the best No 7 in associate cricket, Mooney had a wonderful tournament, even performing with the ball when required and although a big call to put the 28-year-old on a full-time contract, Simmons has again been proven right.

Of the other contracted players, Paul Stirling ended up as Ireland’s leading run-scorer with 230 but, frustratingly he was out four times in the 30s and thanks to his five-for against the Afghans, Cusack ended up as Ireland’s joint leading wicket taker, with 10, the same as George Dockrell who continues to perform on the big stage.

Ireland A’s first game is against Italy tomorrow.

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