On Monday, April 22nd 14 players set out to play four matches in seven days in England. The first two were warm-up friendlies -v- Worcestershire at Worcester and -v- Somerset at Taunton on successive days and under B. & H. Cup regulations. These regulations now called for nine men in the 30 yard ring for the first 15 overs and never more than five leg side fielders. After these two above matches there were B. & H. Cup matches at Southampton -v- Hampshire and -v- Sussex at Hove.
Six of the 14 Irish survived from the last match of 1995 -v- Scotland. They were Warke, Benson, Lewis, Harrison, Doak and Graham. Four others would have played -v- Scotland if available - Patterson, Eagleson, Smyth and Gillespie. P McCrum was recalled for the first time since the Nairobi Tournament in 1994. Dunlop and Rea had played in 1995 but Rutherford (preferred to Ogilby) had not played since 1993. Hoey and Moore felt they could not commit themselves (work) for 1996 while JAM Molins and PJ Davy were studying.
The Worcestershire match was delayed by rain and reduced to 40 overs per side. Ireland left out Dunlop, Gillespie and Eagleson. In 40 overs Worcester made 344 for five! TM Moody (88), TS Curtis (91), GA Hick (52), WPC Weston (51*) were the main scorers and they were the first four in the batting order. After the opening 15 overs Worcester were 139 for one and Moody's 88 came from 48 balls. Ireland used seven bowlers with Graham's eight overs for 51 being the least expensive. Ireland's reply was 152 for five, Lewis 33 and Benson 29.
On to Taunton where Somerset won the toss and batted. The 50 over total was 297 for seven (RJ Harden 69, RJ Turner 59*, S Lee 44). Graham and McCrum were the least expensive of the Irish bowlers while Lewis took three for 49 in six overs. Ireland were all out for 148 in 42.2 overs. Four got into the 20s - Benson (26), Smyth (21), Lewis (29) and Eagleson (20). HRJ Trump took four for 12. Gillespie, Harrison and Doak (injured) were left out.
The first B. & H. match started -v- Hampshire on Friday, April 26th. Ireland left out Doak (injured), Dunlop and Gillespie. Hampshire won the toss and batted. JP Stephenson (ex Essex and now Hampshire's Captain) opened with JS Laney. Patterson and Eagleson bowled. The latter conceded 28 runs in three overs including four wides in his first. McCrum replaced him and bowled extraordinarily well. Only 10 runs came from his 10 successive overs and he took two wickets with successive balls in his third over. The score was 53 and this was the 11th over of the innings. Laney cut straight to gully and Robin Smith, the Test player, got one that popped and lobbed to gully, Benson taking both catches. White now joined Stephenson in a 90 run stand. McCrum's last seven overs conceded only four runs and Graham had a good spell.
100 was up in over 27 and Stephenson had reached 50 in over 24. At 108 White (17) was badly dropped by Smyth at square leg off Harrison. This cost 35 runs as White was not dismissed until 143 was up. He was out for 30 hoisting Harrison to long-on. In the next over, Benson bowling gentle seamers, Keech was out without scoring, caught by Lewis at gully. The next stand was worth 23 and ended at 40.4 overs when Whitaker top edged Harrison to Rutherford. 168-5-15. There ended Ireland's success. No more wickets fell and exactly 100 runs were scored in the last 9.2 overs. WKM Benjamin hit 58 off 32 balls. He was nearly out, when six, at 184, Eagleson almost taking a diving catch in the deep off Harrison. He should have been out for 13 when Rutherford missed a stumping chance off Benson. 200 arrived in over 45 and 64 were scored off the last five overs bowled by four different bowlers. One of these, bowled by Patterson, went for 19. The 100 run unfinished stand for this 6th wicket was a new record by a County team -v- Ireland. It bettered a stand of 87 by H Halliday and A Coxon for Yorkshire at Harrowgate in 1947. Stephenson reached 100 in over 45 and by the end had faced 147 balls and hit 13 fours. He won the Man-of-the-Match Award.
Ireland used seven bowlers and only McCrum bowled the full quota of 10. Benson and Graham were the least expensive of the rest (five per over) but Harrison had two for 50 in nine overs. The ground fielding was very good with Lewis, Benson and Graham outstanding. 11 wides were bowled, six by Eagleson.
The Irish reply never got off the ground. 12 for four became 32 for six and 71 for eight. A late flurry by Rutherford saw the 100 up and the end came in 41.1 overs for 102. Hampshire used six bowlers and all took at least one wicket. Milburn's two for seven in 8.1 overs was impressive.
Rea was caught at slip in the 5th over for nought. Smyth hit a four and was run out by a direct throw from Laney at cover when Warke refused a sharp single. Warke followed, caught at the wicket off a fine nick, and Benson was out first ball in similar fashion. Lewis was caught at slip at 30 as was Harrison two overs later when Keech made his third catch. Graham hit Connor for two fours but was lbw in the same over. Eagleson skied to extra cover at 71 in over 30. Rutherford and McCrum quietly added 20 in nine overs. McCrum was bowled at 91. A few blows by Rutherford raised 100 before Patterson was lbw at 102. Rutherford's 18 not out came in 53 balls. Ireland hit 10 fours while Hampshire got 29 and one six.