Captain William Porterfield has led the tributes to George Dockrell as he prepares to become the eighth international to play 200 games for Ireland.

Dockrell, at 26 years and 229 days, will be the second youngest, behind Paul Stirling, to reach the landmark in the fourth one-day international of the series against Afghanistan.

“It’s a great achievement to reach 200 caps for your country,” said Porterfield, who captains Ireland for a remarkable 241st time today. “George is someone who is so dedicated to his game and deserves all the recognition he gets for this fantastic achievement.”

From his debut in 2010, Dockrell has been the front-line slow left arm bowler for his country but recently it has been his batting which has been grabbing the headlines and, after his match-winning partnership of 143 with Andrew Balbirnie on Tuesday to level the ODI series against Afghanistan, he is a genuine all-rounder.

“I have been working very hard on my batting – probably since I returned from the World Cup in Australia in 2015 (when he took only five wickets in 48 overs),” said Dockrell in Dehradun yesterday, “and I was aware, especially being a spinner, that you need one or two other strings to your bow, batting or fielding.

“I’m still nowhere near the finished product so will continue to work hard and it makes it a lot more enjoyable when you are contributing in both innings. But I’m very happy with how things are going.

“Me an Andy felt good the other day and knew if we stuck around we would be in with a chance at the end of the game so it was great to put on that partnership, get the win and set the series up for a great last two games.”

Dockrell actually started his Irish career as an opening batsman, at Under-13 level when he was also bowling seam up, but the Ireland age group coach Brian O’Rourke “told me in the car park, in a very nice way, there was no future in bowling 60mph inswingers and convinced me to turn to spin".

Four years later he was taking two Australia wickets, including captain and current Test player Mitchell Marsh, at the Under-19 World Cup - in an Ireland team captained by Balbirnie - and got the call to join the senior side in Sri Lanka.
"I was in my last year at school when I got the message in New Zealand that I’d been selected for Sri Lanka so had to call my parents and said 'is that ok, I have to stay for another 3-4 weeks’.

“It was good timing. I had a month’s high-level cricket behind me and, I remember, it was an easy transition into the national team, credit to all the guys around me, there were a lot of experienced players plus Simmo (coach Phil Simmons) and the staff.

“And the first year went so well. I went straight into the team, felt very comfortable and very early on felt I had a place in the team and that takes the pressure of having to prove yourself. You than can just concentrate on performing day by day and that is the real challenge."

Eight months after his debut, Dockrell had played 36 games – still Ireland’s busiest year – and taken 52 wickets; selection for the 2011 World Cup guaranteed.

“There have been so many highlights over the last nine years but while all the World Cups I represented Ireland in have been special in their own right, that World Cup in India, the win over England, the whole experience, being so young, that remains something special," says Dockrell
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The next highlight for Dockrell should arrive next Friday when he makes his Test debut. After losing his place at last year’s World Cup qualifiers, as his bowling dipped below its usual standard, he missed out on Ireland’s inaugural Test match.

“Obviously, would have loved to have been part of that special day, but there were a huge number of players past and present who had done so much to get us there, who weren’t there. That was the bigger picture and if the chance comes round next week to play my first Test that will be fantastic.”

It could be a very special game No 202 for George.