When he became the 702nd player to represent Ireland here on Saturday, no-one was more surprised to be facing Afghanistan than the man himself, James Cameron-Dow.
The 28-year-old South African, who played for two years with North Down before moving to Belmont where he won the Premier League title with CIYMS last year, had aspirations of representing the country of his grandfather’s birth but did not expect it to come so soon.
“When I came back to Northern Ireland last season (after working in South Africa for the previous two years) I thought it would take a while to get back bowling,” says the slow left armer.
In 2017 I was captaining Claremont CC in Cape Town and as we had a very good leg spinner I chose to open the batting and not bowl! So when Jonesy (CIYMS captain Nigel Jones) persuaded me to return, playing for Ireland was not my main goal.
“I was actually looking to the upcoming season, hoping I would have a good one with the (Northern) Knights and see where that took me.”
Instead, he was selected for an Ireland Senior Academy side last August against a globetrotting XI called Rising Sun in a 50 overs game at Holywood and three wickets later he was in the Ireland Wolves squad for a rain-interrupted four-day game against Gloucestershire II in Bristol.
He did enough to be selected for the Wolves tour to Sri Lanka in January and it was there that his career took off. Figures of 7-77 in the first innings of the opening four-day game against a strong Sri Lanka A side and 5-99 in the next match were enough to earn him selection for the ODI and Test match squad against Afghanistan.
Ireland’s decision to play all four slow bowlers in the second ODI in Dehradun earned JCD, as he known to everyone, his first cap but he admits it was a nerve-racking occasion.
"It was probably the longest two hours of my life from getting my cap (from George Dockrell) to my second over. I lost the feeling in my arms and legs for quite a period of time.”
When captain William Porterfield called on him to bowl his first over for Ireland, Afghanistan were 58-0 off 11 overs with big-hitting left-hander Hazratullah Zazai, already on 44. By the end of JCD’s first over, Afghanistan were 76-0 and Zazai was 61 not out.
“I knew exactly what he was trying to do but I couldn’t stop him from doing it. I just wanted to land the ball in a decent area but the third and fourth balls disappeared (for six) and just added to the nerves. Fortunately, the second over was a different story.”
Cameron-Dow conceded just three singles and his third over cost only five runs. The nerves were disappearing and he was feeling like an international cricketer.
It was a journey which started “pretty much as soon as I could walk”, he recalls. “My dad and uncle both played, my brother not so much. I was the most keen of the lot. In Cape Town you play cricket in first year at school, so I’ve been playing since I was six or seven. I made it into the Western Province Under-17 and Under-19 sides, bowling and batting 10 or 11.
“I had one season in the Sussex League in 2009 but went back to South Africa to study marketing. I never completed it!
“It was Peter Shields (the then North Down captain) who was touring Cape Town with the Grasshoppers in 2013 who asked me would I be interested in a season at North Down. I played a couple of games for Knights that year and, looking back, I suppose that was the start."
Cameron-Dow will hope it continues successfully today in the third ODI when Ireland hope to level the five-match series.