Five months after their last match, Ireland have announced a return to action in January with a month long tour to Abu Dhabi, which will conclude with three World Cup Super League games against Afghanistan.

The games, to be played on January 18, 20 and 23 will be preceded by four ODIs against UAE, also in the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, but the hosts have still to confirm those dates.

Cricket Ireland yesterday named a squad of 16, with Peter Chase and former captain William Porterfield the two contracted players to miss out but they will remain at home under Covid-19 safe conditions in case a substitute needs to be flown out.

A third contracted player will also miss the trip, but that is because Gary Wilson has opted to stay at home with his wife Jen to be at the birth of their second child. His replacement, travelling as cover for Lorcan Tucker, will be the uncapped Neil Rock, who was Northern Knights’ regular wicket-keeper until Wilson returned home after quitting the county circuit.

The games will be the first since Ireland’s famous maiden win on English soil against the world champions at Southampton on August 4 which won Andrew Balbirnie’s side their first 10 points in the World Cup Super League.

In all, Ireland played only 12 internationals this year but they claimed victories in three of their four series, with Twenty20 wins against West Indies and, for the first time away, Afghanistan.
“It goes without saying that 2020 has been a difficult year but the lads have acquitted themselves well and can be proud of what they have managed to achieve,” said head coach Graham Ford, who will have Stuart Barnes as his full-time assistant and National Bowling Lead with him for the first time.

“We’ve beaten the T20 World champions (West Indies) in the Caribbean and England in their own back yard and those wins have helped build self-belief within the players and have demonstrated the progress we are making as a squad.

“We have two challenging series ahead of us, but we’re looking to create a sense of momentum going into a big year – a year that will be feature multiple tours, a full home season and the T20 World Cup at the back end (October).”

The first selection of the year, however, points the way forward with Porterfield, after 302 caps, and Boyd Rankin (153 in two spells) the significant absentees and although their return has not been ruled out, it looks like emergencies only, at least in the one-day arena.

The party will leave for the UAE immediately after Christmas.
Squad: A Balbirnie (capt), M Adair, C Campher, D Delany, G Delany, J Little, A McBrine, B McCarthy, J McCollum, K O’Brien, N Rock, S Singh, P Stirling, H Tector, L Tucker, C Young.

Raymond Hunter, who will undoubtedly hold the distinction of being the last player to representing Ireland at both cricket and rugby has died. He was 82.
The father of former Lurgan captain Graeme and his brother Neil, Hunter won 28 caps at cricket between 1957 and 1967, but was more famous as a British Lion, touring South Africa in 1962. He also played 10 times for Ireland.