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Time for Ireland to step up and end dismal form with Bangladesh and New Zealand in town

John Bracewell’s side host Bangladesh in Malahide on Friday.

Ireland suffered two defeats to England last week.
Ireland suffered two defeats to England last week.
Image: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

THE GAMES ARE coming thick and fast for Ireland and coming off the back of a difficult winter and last week’s defeats to England, the need to turn things around and end a dismal run of form cannot be underestimated.

The two-game series against England only served to highlight the shortcomings behind the team’s rapid decline over the last 18 months and failed to lift the current gloom hanging over Irish cricket.

The performance at Lord’s last Sunday was widely regarded as progress, but that term has always been a relative one. Granted it was a marked improvement from the embarrassment of Bristol but it was nowhere near the levels of previous years or indeed the levels required to compete at the top level.

If the results, and to a certain degree performances, against England came as little surprise, there can be no more excuses served up by Ireland’s management and players over the next fortnight as they look to end the widely held assertion that this team has peaked.

The international summer begins with the visit of Bangladesh and New Zealand for a tri-series in Malahide and Clontarf, with Ireland in desperate need of a victory of any kind to ease the pressure and give supporters something to shout about.

Coach John Bracewell, who comes up against his native New Zealand for the first time in the Ireland job on Sunday, admitted his players were burdened by the weight of expectation and history last week.

But there is now an added layer of pressure. Forget about the upcoming ICC meeting which could see Ireland granted Test status, forget about the inadequate funding and forget about the facilities available because Ireland need to start winning cricket matches again.

William Porterfield plays across the line Ireland captain William Porterfield. Source: Andrew Fosker/INPHO

The last time Ireland beat a Test-playing nation on home soil was Bangladesh in Belfast seven years ago and the two teams have taken very different paths since then with the Asian side now ranked seventh in the world.

Since the last meeting between the sides at the 2011 World Cup, Ireland have lost bilateral encounters against Australia (twice), Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, South Africa, Afghanistan and England.

Perhaps more significantly is this statistic; Ireland’s only series victory in the ODI format since then came against United Arab Emirates while they drew with Afghanistan in Belfast last summer.

For a team lacking form and confidence, this series, against two Full Member nations, is another major test with both Bangladesh and New Zealand using the matches as valuable warm-up games ahead of the Champions Cup next month.

Each team will play each other twice over the next fortnight with the opening clash between Ireland and Bangladesh at Malahide tomorrow.

Despite calls for change and the inclusion of fresh faces, Ireland’s selectors have made just one change to the squad for this tri-series with YMCA all-rounder Simi Singh drafted in to replace Andy McBrine.

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It’s unlikely Singh will be included in the XI so it’ll be a case of as you were for Ireland with Bracewell set to stick with the tried and trusted formula, and one which has failed more often than not in the one-day format since his arrival as coach in May 2015.

There were some positive performances from last week, with Peter Chase and Barry McCarthy standing out with the ball and it’ll be interesting to see if any lessons have been learned from last year’s heavy defeats to Sri Lanka and Pakistan at Malahide.

Pete Johnston and John Bracewell Ireland coach John Bracewell needs a win. Source: Barry Chambers/INPHO

While the hosts will naturally target Bangladesh as the team they can beat, the Tigers are on the up since the last World Cup and will present another stiff test, particularly with a spin-orientated bowling attack.

Bangladesh warmed up for Friday’s opener with a facile 199-run win over a second-string Ireland Wolves XI yesterday and all the indications are that the explosive Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan will likely to cause huge problems if Ireland aren’t tuned in.

While Bangladesh have a full strength squad, New Zealand are slightly depleted by the unavailability of seven players due to Indian Premier League commitments.

Nonetheless, the Black Caps still possess quality throughout and have the likes of Ross Taylor, Colin Munro, captain Tom Latham and Luke Ronchi in their ranks.

There’s no doubt Ireland will be up against it but these are the opportunities Cricket Ireland have pushed hard for and have finally earned. It’s high time the players step up and make them count.

Ireland squad: William Porterfield (Captain) (Warwickshire), Andrew Balbirnie (Pembroke/Leinster Lightning), Peter Chase (Malahide/Leinster Lightning), George Dockrell (Leinster/Leinster Lightning), Ed Joyce (Sussex/Leinster Lightning), Tim Murtagh (Middlesex), Barry McCarthy (Durham/Leinster Lightning), Kevin O’Brien (Railway Union/Leinster Lightning), Niall O’Brien (NW Warriors), Simi Singh (YMCA/Leinster Lightning), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Stuart Thompson (Eglinton/NW Warriors), Gary Wilson (Derbyshire/Northern Knights), Craig Young (Bready/NW Warriors).

Tri-Series fixtures:

  • 12 May: Ireland v Bangladesh (Malahide)
  • 14 May: Ireland v New Zealand (Malahide)
  • 17 May: Bangladesh v New Zealand (Clontarf)
  • 19 May: Ireland v Bangladesh (Malahide)
  • 21 May: Ireland v New Zealand (Malahide)
  • 24 May: Bangladesh v New Zealand (Clontarf)

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Ryan Bailey

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