ANDY BALBIRNIE will have a better idea of his potential line-up and tactics for the first one-day international next week after a final warm-up match against the England Lions at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.
Two of Ireland’s biggest stars, Paul Stirling and Mark Adair are struggling with respective calf and ankle injuries and are likely to sit out the encounter with the England second string while skipper Balbirnie will also be pondering where his predecessor William Porterfield is to bat.
Former keeper Niall O’Brien wants to see Porterfield playing a new pivotal role in the middle order, possibly at No 6, where he could either shore up an early collapse or use his vast experience to spark the tail to greater effect in the final overs of a big score.
“Since the retirement of Trent Johnston and John Mooney we haven’t been scoring enough runs down the order,” O’Brien said.
“The tendency has been for us to be bowled out and if Porty was coming in lower down that might be the answer.”
Porterfield may yet be required to replace Stirling, but the opener only has ‘a niggle’ and the more concerning injury worry for Ireland is Adair, the exciting all-rounder who is still reporting discomfort from an ankle after undergoing surgery during the winter.
“Mark’s injury is a mystery,” coach Graham Ford said. “We hoped he was going to be ready to fire on all cylinders but he is still unable to bowl with full intensity. The team doctor who performed the surgery on him is here - so we’re taking things one day at a time.”
Skipper Balbirnie has been pleased with the first week of training and preparations in the ‘bio-secure’ setting despite a bizarre journey from Ireland that saw the team make an unscheduled landing at Bristol, then divert to Birmingham and finally on to Southampton by road.
“The facilities here are exceptional,” Balbirnie said.
“They really are second to none with everything you could want on your doorstep, including a second ground as well as nets. We’re spoiled for choice and it’s a very comfortable and safe environment.”