Magnificent Adair Makes His Mark

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Standing at the top of his run-up in early May, about to open the bowling against England on a bitter day in Malahide, Mark Adair must have considered himself a fortunate man.

Up to that point, 2019 hadn’t been a great year with the ball for him. On the Ireland Wolves tour of Sri Lanka in January he’d taken just 5 wickets across 6 matches at an average close to 70.

Then in late April he took part in the Inter-Provincial Cup tour to La Manga, taking 3–29 and 1–65 in the Spanish sun. But that probably wasn’t enough to crack the Irish bowling unit for a marquee game like England.

For that he’d probably have to accompany his bowling with some ridiculous batting numbers. Something like 31 off 12 balls or even 44 off 16. It was that big hitting which got him the number 8 slot on debut and what let him hit 32 at a good rate to give Ireland a decent total to defend.

He then opened the bowling and went 8–0–48–0, looking much less penetrative than the day’s star Josh Little. He looked a bits and pieces player. The truth was he’d only gotten into the squad because Stuart Thompson picked up a shoulder injury two days before the big game, it was a sliding doors moment.

Six months later Mark Adair holds the Irish record for most combined Test, ODI and T20I wickets in a calendar year. He’s taken 6 wickets on Test debut in front of a packed house at Lord’s. He’s been the star bowler as Ireland have qualified for the next World T20 competition. He’s been a star.

Undoubtedly his biggest contribution in an Ireland shirt so far has been the revitalisation of the T20 bowling attack. Taking responsibility at the death and up front in the powerplay, Adair has rapidly developed into a canny seamer with excellent control of his slower balls and cutters.

Since a shaky start in the shortest format the Holywood man has gone a remarkable 12 games in a row without exceeding an economy rate of 8. His consistency in such a chaotic format is bordering on freakish.

It’s been a long time since a young Irish bowler established themselves in the side — the likes of Barry McCarthy, Peter Chase and Craig Young have all tried and failed to lock down a long term spot .

Indeed the last to accomplish the feat was George Dockrell in 2010 when he burst onto the scene as a 17 year old and took 32 wickets. Dockrell has used this early start and a nagging usefulness to the team to establish himself as Ireland’s leading wicket taker in T20Is, a crown Adair must have his eyes on even at a young age.

After only a year he already has a third of Dockrell’s wicket total and has the most wickets of any Irish bowler at this stage in their career.

With Tim Murtagh stepping down from international duty next year to play for Middlesex and Boyd Rankin getting up there in age, Adair will be looked on to become the leader of a fresh attack in the coming years.

Based on the numbers so far, he’s well set to do so.