After a month's rest Ireland set out on an intensive week's programme. A two-day match -v- MCC (reduced from the usual three days because of the enormous number of matches in 1998) at the new venue of Lurgan was followed at once with a match -v- Bangladesh at another new venue at Waringstown. In the following seven days there were four more days of International play against the tourists who, of course, were the ICC Trophy holders.
For the MCC match Ireland fielded only four players who had played in the Benson & Hedges Cupmatches. They were Heasley, Cooke, McCallan and Eagleson. The captain, Dunlop, was unavailable, as were J. Molins (at Oxford), AD Patterson (gone to Surrey) and Joyce (exams). Gillespie returned as did Rutherford (who was made captain). Davy was preferred to McCrum. New caps were given to Paul Mooney, The Hills all rounder, to Neil Anderson, the Lurgan slow left armer playing on his home ground, and to Cork's Ted Williamson, an opening bat. Williamson, a left hander who played for Pembroke, was the first Munster player to play for Ireland since Power in 1994.
Smith had made his peace with the Irish Cricket Union and came in to bat at number three, his first match since the Sussex Benson & Hedges Cup match in 1996. Local player Graeme Hunter, son of Raymond, was 12th Man.
MCC brought a somewhat unknown team but G. Hodgson, ex Gloucestershire, was there as he had been at Lord's in 1997. Michael Rea, over 2,000 runs for Ireland, also played for MCC
There was a lot of rain on the big Lurgan ground in the days before the match. So the pitch was a little damp and the day was chilly. MCC won the toss and sent Ireland in, no doubt in search, ultimately, of a fourth innings chase.
At 10.30 a.m. Williamson opened with McCallan against the tall Francis, a West Indian and the stocky medium paced Warden. Williamson got under way with an on driven four. Runs came steadily assisted by no-balls. Then in the 11th over McCallan cut at a wide ball from Francis with no foot movement and was caught at cover. 29-1-11.
Smyth came in and showed his class. His scored 102 not out in just over three hours off 138 balls. It was his first century for Ireland and the first by an Irish born player on a Northern Cricket Union ground. Masood had made one in 1987 at Downpatrick -v- Gloucestershire. Smyth got going at once taking nine off a Francis over and not long afterwards 11 off an over from Lees a tall bowler moving the ball away. 50 was up in over 16. Williamson suddenly speeded up with a hook and four to mid-wicket. He took 10 off Lees but was out to the last ball of the over. He hoisted a drive to mid-off and was out for a very satisfactory debut, 35, at 79.
Gillespie came next. He hit two fours off an over by the medium paced F1ack and saw 100 up in over 27, a very satisfactory pace. Gillespie was then dropped at slip but was out to the next ball he faced. He was given out lbw after a long umpire delay. 104-3-12. Mooney, another new cap, had a sad start. He faced 15 balls without scoring. He then moved too far across to hit to leg and was lbw to Lees at 109 in over 31. Heasley arrived and was nine at lunch, Smyth 43 in a score of 131 for four in 38 overs.
Heasley, as is his wont when in form, lost no time in picking up the pace after lunch. Sedgbeer, a leg spinner, bowled the first over and 15 came in the over, Heasley hitting three successive fours. 150 came in over 40. Eight overs later the score was 200. Sedgbeer's five overs yielded 32. Smyth reached 51 at 156 in over 42 off 90 balls. Heasley followed suit at 190 in over 47. Flack came back and saw Heasley (59) dropped at mid-off at 202. It was not too expensive a miss. Heasley hit two more fours (10 in all) and was out at 223 in over 52. He was bowled by Warden, the ball keeping a little low as he tried to nudge it to third man. Heasley had dominated the 114 run stand his 71 coming at a run a minute off 67 balls. This was a new 5th wicket record v MCC beating 110 by JC Walton and RH Lambert at Ormeau in 1924.
Four overs later Eagleson also fell to Warden. He was caught at the wicket while flashing at the ball. Rutherford came in to shepherd Smyth to his century. In five overs 30 were put on. Smyth made 19 of these including a six over long-on off Warden. A final three to mid-wicket off Flack took Smyth from 99 to 102 and Rutherford declared at once. In just over 60 overs Ireland had scored at 4½ per over.
Smyth never made a mistake in an innings of true class with 10 fours and a six. The MCC bowling was not too taxing with Warden and Lees the best of them. The two slow bowlers yielded 74 runs in 12 overs.
MCC began at 3.15 p.m. Davy and Cooke bowled to Hodgson and Boon. Apart from a six by Boon off Davy there was no great excitement up to the tea interval. MCC were 46 in 14 overs, Hodgson 11, Boon 32.
Ireland switched bowlers and Boon continued to dominate the scoring. He reached 50 out of 70 in over 19. The stand reached 89 before a wicket fell to a "partnership breaker" bowler, Heasley. He bowled the obdurate Hodgson in his third over, the 24th. 89-1-23. Rea, ex Ireland, arrived and, of course, there was a great desire not to let him get too many. He didn't. However he lost Boon before his own dismissal. 100 came in over 27 and Boon was well on his way to a quick century (81 in 97 balls) when, at 122, he hit Heasley to Davy to mid-off. Davy threw down the bowler's wicket with little to aim at.
Davy came back for a new spell and clean bowled Rea. He was playing forward but the ball left him and hit off stump. 132-3-17. McCallan was bowling his off-spin in harness with Davy. Trestrail hit him for a four but was lbw next ball while pushing forward. Flack joined Sedgbeer and in 13 overs added 52, 10 came off a Davy over which brought up 150. Sedgbeer hit McCallan for a six over long-on and two overs later hit another straight six. Mooney stemmed the tide with five overs for 13 runs. Flack gave Cooke a difficult chance at deep mid-wicket at 186. Then at 189, Graeme Hunter, fielding sub for Heasley brought off a very good running catch at long-off to dismiss Flack and give Mooney his first International wicket. Wahab (1) saw out the day, 7.00 p.m., with Sedgbeer (46) at 199 for five in 51 overs. 466 runs had come in the day in 111.3 overs.
Ireland had fielded very well with good stopping and throwing. Seven bowlers were tried, only one, McCallan, exceeding 10 overs. Davy probably used the pitch best of the seven.
MCC declared overnight conceding a 68 run lead to Ireland. At 10.30 a.m. McCallan and Williamson set out to score quickly to allow a declaration on a short second day. There could not be more than a scheduled five hours and 10 minutes allowing for lunch and an innings break. There would be 20 overs from 3.30 p.m. MCC kept an attacking field but bowled only 38.3 overs up to lunch at 1.00 p.m. and an Irish declaration at that point.
The day was much warmer when McCallan and Williamson set off. Francis squared up McCallan and had him lbw at seven. Williamson again played well but Smyth once again was in great form. He scored 38 with seven fours. 50 was up in 10 overs. Then, at 59, Williamson (17) edged Warden to Boon at second slip. It was a good catch two handed and low diving to the right. Smyth followed Williamson to the pavilion two overs later. He tried to nudge Warden to third man and was caught at the wicket at 66. Mooney came in on a "pair" in his first match, to join Gillespie. He snicked a four off the second ball he faced and never looked back. This pair added 98 but it took 22 overs. With so many wickets in hand they might, perhaps, have tried for a greater rate to allow as much time as possible to dismiss MCC Mooney received slightly more balls in the stand but Gillespie dominated it scoring 56 of the 98 added.
100 was up in over 22. 150 and Gillespie's half century in over 33. Gillespie hit a final four (his sixth), went to his highest score for Ireland (57) and was out in over 36 at 164. He drove Sedgbeer to Warden at mid-off. In the 10 more minutes before lunch both Eag1eson (caught at cover cutting) and Mooney (caught at long off) were out. The final tally was 176 at the lunch declaration. Mooney had made 42 off 78 balls. Trestrail, MCC's captain, bowled nine balls at the end of the innings for two wickets.
MCC's target was 245 in 110 minutes plus 20 overs. In 110 minutes Ireland should have bowled 28 to 30 overs. They bowled 25, making a possible 45 in all. This was not good tactics and reflected a defensive attitude for which Ireland suffered at the end
MCC never really came to terms with 4½ runs per over. Hodgson hit two fours in Cooke's second over but when the first wicket fell after 11 overs the score was 31. Boon was lbw to Cooke for nine. Two overs later Cooke squared up Rea and bowled him for nought. Hodgson, in contrast, to his first innings, continued to hit fours but lost Sedgbeer at 57. Cooke took his third wicket when the latter nibbled to Eagleson at slip in the 17th over. Trestrail started with two fours off Heasley and then a six brought up 100 in over 22. Hodgson had reached 50 in over 19 and had nearly been caught by Davy diving at deep mid-off. In over 23 Hodgson was out for 58 (eight fours) at 102. He was bowled in Davy's second over.
At the last 20 overs mark MCC needed 136 to win - a very daunting task. McCallan and Anderson were brought on but the field was too defensive. Sometimes there were four boundary fielders. MCC should have been encouraged and kept interested in the target by keeping attacking fields which would either take wickets or yield runs. Trestrail and Flack did their best. The former reached 50 off 148 after 31 overs. Only 14 remained to score 97 or for Ireland to take six wickets. The latter now became more likely. In over 34 Flack was caught on the mid-wicket boundary off McCallan. McCallan was to take four wickets before the end.
An Anderson over went for 11 including Trestrail's second six. In over 36 Rutherford missed stumping Wahab off McCallan but McCallan bowled him next ball. Trestrail pulled a muscle and requested a runner. He and Sketchley could add only 11 in 20 balls. Then, in over 40, Trestrail hoisted McCallan to mid-wicket. 35 balls remained but 64 were needed. MCC gave up the chase. With seven balls to go Lees was lbw but Sketchley saw out the last over.
With a better over rate and more thought, Ireland might have won.