IRELAND’S two warm-up matches in the Caribbean have gone much as expected with four solid batting displays and the bowlers coming out second best.
That scenario is likely to continue when the action begins in earnest today with the first of two one-day internationals against West Indies at the famous Kensington Oval (5.30pm GMT).
It is six years since Ireland last played in the Caribbean and a further seven since their last game in Barbados but Ireland will have three survivors from that World Cup victory against Bangladesh which promoted them onto the ODI world ranking table.
Despite Afghanistan’s elevation, Ireland have moved above Zimbabwe so, 13 years on, they are still in 11th position but just two places behind their hosts for the next fortnight – a third ODI and the first of three T20 internationals will be played in Grenada before the teams move on to St Kitts for the other two T20Is.
West Indies will be keen to prove that there is a vast difference between ninth and 11th place and with home advantage they are expected to do so, although if the Ireland batting fires they can match their hosts in that department.
Ireland’s bowling, especially in hostile conditions, remains the big worry and unless it comes off, is likely to be the determining factor. A Barbados club side scored 293-7 in Ireland’s first warm-up game and an admittedly strong West Indies President XI chased down Ireland’s 275-9 with 20 balls to spare, albeit with just three wickets in hand, on Saturday.
The second game could have been closer if Boyd Rankin had not been rested for the tougher challenges ahead, restricted to six overs, which cost just 17 runs.
But Rankin, who along with William Porterfield and Kevin O’Brien also played in the 2007 World Cup, appreciates it is just as important to bring on the youngsters on this short tour.
“We've got a young side, and I suppose I am now seen as our most experienced bowler, said the 35-year-old former Warwickshire professional.
“While it’s important that I still put my performances in, I do want to also help the young lads through as well. Whether it’s advice on their bowling, or their field placements against certain batters or in certain conditions, I see it as an opportunity to give a bit back to the youngsters, who are going to be a major part of this team moving forward over the next five years.”
The short-term problem is that the in-form Windies batting line-up will show them no mercy and with the home fans baying for big runs, let’s hope they are not one-sided.
West Indies (from): K Pollard (capt), S Ambris, R Chase, S Cottrell, S Hetmyer, S Hope, A Joseph, B King, E Lewis, K Paul, K Pierre, N Pooran, R Shepherd H Walsh.
Ireland (from) A Balbirnie (capt), M Adair, G Delany, A McBrine, B McCarthy, J McCollum, K O’Brien, W Porterfield, B Rankin, S Singh, P Stirling, L Tucker, G Wilson, C Young.