NORTH West Warriors’ hopes of causing an upset in the final inter-provincial Cup game against champions Leinster Lightning at Malahide today (10.15am) were dealt a blow yesterday when Boyd Rankin ruled himself out with flu symptoms.
The Ireland international did not fly to Dublin, from his Birmingham home, and he has been replaced in the squad by Ardmore's Jarred Wilson, 12th man in the game between the teams at Bready last week which the visitors won by 62 runs.
The one new name in the squad is Conor Olphert, the Bready bowler who has been troubled by injury for most of the truncated season – he was selected for the North team to play the South in two T20 games last month ahead of the inter-pros, but was forced to pull out on the day of the first game.
After a wait of more than six weeks, however, Olphert has got the call and with Rankin’s withdrawal seems certain to make his debut against the side which has dominated 50-over representative cricket for the last seven years.
It is the latest ever finish to an inter-provincial season and a good omen for Warriors is that their only 50-over victory over Lightning was on September 21, 2013 at Strabane Park, the only other year when a game took place so late in the season.
Warriors will have three survivors from that day in skipper Andy McBrine and fellow Ireland internationals Stuart Thompson and Craig Young while Kevin O’Brien and Tyrone Kane are still around from the Lightning side seven years on.
O’Brien was top scorer for the visitors that day with 39 but there was talk during Saturday’s game against Northern Knights of him sitting out today’s finale, with the Cup already won, to allow Tim Tector a debut.
Tector and Rory Anders were the unused squad members against the Knights but having “been round the squad” for the last two games, it would seem the opportune time for the exciting 17-year-old to move up a level.
If Warriors are to end a seven-year losing sequence in this fixture, however, they will need Thompson, McBrine and William Porterfield to all fire with the bat – they contributed only 22 runs in the 62 runs defeat at Bready last week – but there was encouragement that youngsters Nathan McGuire and Will Smale, plus Graham Hume and Graham Kennedy all topped 30, albeit without reaching 50.
McBrine took the solitary Lightning wicket in that game and the captain will be looking for more help from his experienced pace duo of Young and Hume but no-one will be more keen than Olphert if he gets his chance.