FOR the last two years everything Adrian Birrell touched turned to gold. So it was not a big surprise that the Ireland coach who led his adopted country to World Cup, European Championship and Inter-Continental Cup glory bowed out with another victory.
Fittingly, the Home of Cricket was the venue and his captain and vice-captain from the West Indies were there to see him off. For one day only he was coach to a Europe XI and Trent Johnston and Kyle McCallan both played leading roles in a two wickets success which levelled the series in their annual fixture against MCC.
All Birrell teams have a depth in batting and, probably too often for the South African's liking down the years, it has been needed. Yesterday was no exception as the Europe XI, after restricting their hosts to 183 for seven in 50 overs, slumped to 33 for five with Ireland internationals Jeremy Bray for 10 and Kevin O'Brien, three, among the early victims.
Johnston and Freddie Klokker led the recovery. Both were out within touching distance of a half century, the skipper for 48 from 50 balls, with eight fours and Klokker, the Denmark wicket-keeper but playing as a specialist batsman, for a more patient 47, from 85 balls with just four boundaries. Still, they got Europe up to 138 for seven and the MCC then found themselves bowling to two batsmen who have frustrated many attacks from the lower order, former Scotland captain Craig Wright and McCallan. The latter was out for 25, three runs from the wining post but Wright hit the winning runs with 20 balls to spare.
The Ireland bowling was not so successful, comfortably losing out in their private battle with the Scots … so nothing new there then.
Johnston, McCallan and two overs from O'Brien cost 88 runs while the Scottish trio of John Blain, Wright and slow left armer Glenn Rogers took six for 91 from 28 overs as MCC hit back from 94 for six with a seventh stand of 89 between John Stephenson and Alan Duncan, an MCC Young Cricketer called in as a late replacement for their star name, Chris Cairns.
Perhaps, it was just as well for Birrell and Europe that the former New Zealand Test all-rounder wasn't playing or, more than likely there would have been a different result but, there was never any doubt that Birrell would sign off with a victory. Was there? Thanks for the memories Adi.
Scores: MCC 183-7 (J Stephenson 51, A Duncan 40 not out, T Bailey 31, D Bicknell, J Hamblin 20; J Blain 3-38, G Rogers 2-19) Europe XI 184-8 (T Johnston 48, F Klokker 47, K McCallan 25, C Wright 23; J Stephenson 3-39, G Bulpitt 2-31, P Hutchison 2-35). Europe won by two wickets.