Rankin relishing Ireland return
BOYD RANKIN will return to competitive action with Ireland this weekend - four years after his last appearance during the 2012 T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka.
The 31 year-old is in Townsville, Australia, where Ireland will take on Papua New Guinea in the latest round of the ICC InterContinental Cup.
"I've really enjoyed being back in the Irish environment. I've been made very welcome, and settled in very well - it doesn't seem like I've been away at all."
The Bready man took 1-29 in his 11 overs for the Irish in a two-day practice match against Queensland earlier this week, and admitted there were a few butterflies ahead of the game.
"It was a little strange the first time I pulled the Irish jersey back on for the two-day game, but I settled quickly and felt very comfortable and excited to be back playing."
The opening bowler is unique in the current Irish set-up for the fact that he has already experienced Test cricket. What would it be like to play a Test match for Ireland?
"I've had a taste of Test match cricket and I would love more. It would be an unreal experience to get the chance to play Test cricket for Ireland in the coming years so it's a massive drive for all of us to get to that stage."
Rankin feels that the pitch and conditions for the PNG encounter may not be ideal for fast bowling.
"The pitch will be pretty similar to what we have been practising on in Brisbane. We are predicting a slow flat wicket with hopefully some turn later on in the game," said the County Tyrone native.
"Townsville is very hot and humid so it will be tough conditions for us. but our preparations have gone very well. All the bowlers have got a good run out in the last few weeks and are fit and raring to go come Sunday."
Ireland's opponents Papua New Guinea shocked competition leaders The Netherlands last summer, and Rankin is expecting a tough contest against the Pacific Islanders.
" I haven't come across them much before, so they are a bit of an unknown quality. The lads obviously played them last year in the T20 and lost, so it's going to be a difficult game.
"I'm sure they are very talented players so we will have to be at our best to get the result we want. We've done our research into them and have definite plans in mind."
Gary Wilson reinforced his fellow Ulsterman's view that Ireland have been meticulous in their preparations for the clash.
"Cricket Ireland has ensured that we have been very well prepared for the game. Since John Bracewell has come in his emphasis has been very much on personal responsibility - what you need to do to get yourself ready to compete come the first ball of the game.
"The competition is obviously now hugely important as for the first time in the history of Irish Cricket it is actually in our hands whether we get to play Test cricket or not.
"There are certainly a few obstacles in the way but we know if we can play the kind of cricket that we are capable of then there is no reason why we shouldn't get our shot," said Wilson.
The Surrey batsman-keeper welcomed the return of Boyd Rankin to the Irish attack, strengthening the options available to skipper William Porterfield.
"To have Boyd back in the team gives us that extra dimension. Not only is it another weapon on the bowling front but it actually makes our other bowlers more effective as well.
"It really is brilliant to have the big man back where he belongs. He said himself he has had the best days of his career in an Ireland shirt and we hope there are many more to come."
Ireland's clash with Papua New Guinea starts on Sunday at 00:00 GMT in Townsville
IRELAND (from): W Porterfield (capt), A Balbirnie, G Dockrell, E Joyce, A McBrine, T Murtagh, K O'Brien, N O'Brien, S Poynter, B Rankin, P Stirling, S Thompson, G Wilson, C Young.