ALL but four of the extended Ireland squad which leaves next Friday for the UAE, ahead of the T20 World Cup, will be in action this weekend in the T20 inter-provincial festival in Comber.
Captain Andrew Balbirnie, Barry McCarthy, Curtis Campher and Craig Young have all been pulled out by Cricket Ireland with Campher still recovering from his shoulder injury, sustained in the first T20 against Zimbabwe three weeks ago and Young pulled up in the warm-up ahead of the final one day international on Monday with a groin strain.
The good news is that Gareth Delany, who underwent knee surgery in June, and hasn’t played international cricket since the ODI series against Afghanistan in January, is in the Munster Reds squad which opens its campaign against Leinster Lightning this afternoon.
The first match this morning is between Northern Knights and North West Warriors with the hosts introducing three new squad members in Instonians slow bowler Cian Robertson and Waringstown’s Morgan Topping who were, respectively, the leading wicket-taker and top run-scorer in the recent Future Series and, on his home ground, opening bowler Tom Mayes who took 33 wickets for North Down this season.
The Warriors have named a relatively young squad and brought in Newbuildings medium pacer Trent McKeegan and Eglinton spinner Robbie Millar who was unlucky to miss out on the Ireland Under 19-squad for next week’s World Cup qualifying tournament in Spain.
With three obvious absentees from the Lightning squad, coach Nigel Jones has brought in experienced clubmen, Theo Lawson, the top batsmen in Leinster this season and Tom Stanton, who captained Merrion to their first league and cup double since 1940 plus left arm seamer Mikey O’Reilly who impressed in the Future Series.
Cricket Ireland have also told Jones that Simi Singh and Josh Little can only play two games before they head off with Ireland, although if the forecast is right for today, all the teams will be just playing two games!
While the selectors’ eyes will be on the Ireland squad members, there is a T20 Trophy to be won and it’s the Warriors who head into the weekend with a four-point advantage over Lightning after the first six games with the Knights just two points further back.
It could all come down to the final game on Sunday afternoon between Warriors and Lightning to determine if George Dockrell’s side retain the trophy.
SQUADS - Northern Knights: H Tector (capt), M Adair, R Adair, D Delany, J Hunter, J Lawlor, J Matchett, T Mayes, R Pretorius, C Robertson, N Rock, P Stirling, M Topping, B White.
North West Warriors: A McBrine (capt), R Allen, S Doheny, S Getkate, G Hume, G Kennedy, R Macbeth, W McClintock, T McKeegan, R Millar, C Olphert, W Porterfield, J Wilson.
Munster Reds: T Kane (capt), A Cawley, J Carty, M Commins, G Delany, G Ford, M Ford, M Frost, F Hand, L McCarthy, J Manley, PJ Moor, M Thompson
Leinster Lightning: G Dockrell (capt), R Anders, JJ Garth, J Grassi, G Hoey, T Lawson, J Little, K O’Brien, D O’Halloran, M O’Reilly, S Singh, T Stanton, J Tector, L Tucker.