With Ireland’s accession into men’s Test cricket, there has been lots of speculation and comment on who may or not be able to make the ‘step up’ to the toughest form of the game.
For some current players it has come too late, for others too soon. But all will be pitched in on May 11th and we will know the answer.
But there is some evidence available, albeit only in white-ball cricket.
I’ve taken the combined records for all those who are in the senior or Wolves squads who have played for Ireland against the ten pre-2017 full members (i.e., not including Afghanistan). I’ve also added a handful of others who may figure in future years.
There are lots of caveats of course – not least that T20 is almost a different sport to Test cricket – but some interesting trends are apparent. There are no numerical qualifications for these tables, so Andy McBrine is way clear at the top of the batting list although he has only been dismissed four times and half his 14 games were against Zimbabwe.
Of those with more than a handful of games you find a predictable pecking order. Ed Joyce is comfortably atop, while Paul Stirling and Niall O’Brien have near-identical records with just 3/1000ths of a run between them. William Porterfield and Kevin O’Brien come next, with Gary Wilson and Andrew Balbirnie averaging around 20.
RECORDS AGAINST FULL MEMBERS
Those records go back to the mid-2000s when some of the Irish side were amateur club players, but in general they come since professionalisation and in an era when the regulations for white ball games were heavily tilted towards batsmen.
In that context, Tim Murtagh’s 34 wickets at 28.5 is very impressive.
Because some of the players mentioned played against full members as far back as 2006, it may be more useful to look at their recent performances – below are the records since the opening of the 2015 World Cup, starting with the famous win over West Indies in Nelson.
Interestingly, Niall O’Brien has leapt to the top of the batting chart, a whisker clear of Joyce while Porterfield too, has shown improvement.
Stirling has marginally increased his average, but the last of his fifties came in October 2015, 15 games ago, in the same series Wilson also scored the last of his. Like the latter, Kevin O’Brien, too, has seen his average go backwards and slip below 20.
RECORDS AGAINST FULL MEMBERS SINCE Feb 2015
While the changes are mostly marginal in the batting ranks, the bowlers show some alarming slides.
Tim ‘Mr Consistency’ maintains his supremacy, but the rest have fallen back. Kevin O’Brien and George Dockrell’s wickets against Full Members in the past three years cost more than 70 runs apiece – and if you put aside the 3-50 Dockrell took against West Indies in Nelson, then his seven wickets since have cost over 100.
Paul Stirling too, has taken just one full member wicket – Sean Williams of Zimbabwe in October 2015, giving him an average of 457.
Plenty of food for thought ahead of May!