Honours even in Intercontinental Cup as Under-19s prepare for plate QF

Ireland’s senior and under-19 cricket sides are both in action in warmer climes at the moment: the 1st XI have resumed their ICC Intercontinental Cup schedule in Sri Lanka against a fast improving Afghanistan side while the juniors have been blooded against some of the best sides in the world in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand.

The seniors have had a reasonable first day after winning the toss and electing to bat in Dambulla. Porterfield, Wilson and Niall O’Brien all reached half centuries as the Irish cruised to 203-2 before losing 3 quick wickets to the leg-spin of Samiullah Shenwari. Andrew White steadied the ship with the Northants wicketkeeper but both fell before the close to leave the favourites 324-7 at the close and hoping to push on to around 400 in the morning.

The Under-19s will be hoping to improve on the 13th place finish they achieved last time around in 2008. After a predictable defeat against South Africa and a mauling at the hands of the Australians, Ireland scored their first win on Tuesday with a convincing defeat of the USA. Senior cap Paul Stirling made 114 as the Irish chased down their target of 218 with 5 wickets and more than 6 overs to spare. The side now face Zimbabwe in Napier on Sunday as the bottom 8 sides in the standings compete in the knockout plate championship.

Stumps: Dambulla, Day 1 of 4. Ireland 324-7 (98 ov) Porterfield 78, N O’Brien 66, Wilson 53; Samiullah Shenwari 3-55It’s been an interesting close season for Irish cricket as some stalwarts move into retirement while others commit themselves to the cause full time. Ireland’s most-capped international Kyle McCallen and the hero of Sabina Park 2007 Jeremy Bray have both announced their retirement from the international game. Meanwhile as coach Phil Simmons targets a quarter final place in the Senior Cricket World Cup in the subcontinent next year, Cricket Ireland have stepped up their pursuit of a professional set up by giving 6 players full-time central contracts running until the end of the tournament and assisting 4 more financially. The ICC, the British and Irish Sports Councils and Cricket Ireland’s main sponsor RSA have assisted in investing nearly half a million Euro in the team to allow professional standards of preparation. Paul Stirling, the young Middlesex opener is retained on an ‘A’ contract meaning that Ireland retain his services for international duty whatever his county have to say in the matter. Couple this with Ireland’s draft application for full ICC membership and their decision to turn down entrance to the ECB’s 40 over tournament and we have a new dawn in Irish cricket breaking. No longer shackled to the county circuit, a full international schedule, full-time players and (hopefully) more TV exposure may just accelerate the fastest growing sport in Ireland into the big time.