The fear that had gripped Ireland's amateur players for many years when playing professional opponents seemed to have been finally dispelled in this match. Despite a very big Warwickshire total (they were sent in) Ireland knuckled down and only lost by 41 runs. Indeed, needing 139 in the last 20 overs with only two wickets down, the Warwickshire camp was worried. This was the kind of target which the professionals of Warwickshire might well achieve but it was a little too daunting for Ireland. This was especially so when slow left arm bowler Ashley Giles came on for over 36. He stemmed the runs and bowled until the end. A week later he made his Test Match debut at Old Trafford -v- South Africa. It was Ireland's first competitive match -v- Warwickshire.
The Irish selection was strange to say the least. Jason Molins was in the 12. He cried off to play for Oxford University in the Varsity match. His substitute, N. Carson, also cried off. Andy Patterson was then recruited from Surrey. If he was available at that stage then why was he not in the original selection, having played in all three Benson & Hedges Cupmatches earlier in the season? The party of 12 now had two wicket-keepers, Rutherford and Patterson. Matt Dwyer was then left out of the 12 and both wicket-keepers played. Taking into account Dwyer' s excellent bowling in the Benson & Hedges matches this was an inexplicable decision. Even if both Patterson and Rutherford played then surely Davy or Eagleson could have been left out. Had Dwyer played Warwickshire might well have scored 20 less and then who knows what might have happened. The rest of the Irish team would be roughly as anticipated. The only question might be Davy replacing McCrum.
Warwickshire had the great West Indian Brian Lara as their captain. Knight, Small and Munton (playing his first serious match since a back injury in 1996) were all Test players and Giles was about to become one.
The pitch was firm but slow enough to suit Ireland. The morning was grey and rain caused a four hour delay after 11.1 overs. This drove the match into a second day.
Knight and Smith (son of MJK) opened for the County to some good bowling by Cooke and Eagleson and indeed a vital but very difficult chance went down in Cooke's fifth over at 19. Knight (9) snicked to gully where a fast low right handed catch failed to stick in Smyth's hand. The "might have beens" - the left handed Knight batted through the innings for 143. When rain came after 11.1 overs the score was 30.
Play resumed at 3.30 p.m. with Davy and, soon afterwards, Heasley bowling. 50 was up in over 14 and in a nine over period eight fours were hit. Smith hit seven of these and went to 50 out of 91 after over 21. McCallan came on for Davy and got Smith with his fifth ball. Smith drove low to mid-wicket where Dunlop picked up the catch. 96-1-52. Lara arrived and tea was taken at 99 after 26 overs only three runs coming in the three overs since Smith's dismissal. Lara had played five balls, all from McCallan, without scoring. Knight was 35.
McCallan bowled the first post tea over. His second ball was played to the leg side sweeper for a single. The sweeper was brought in to save one for Lara. The great man then danced down the pitch, hit across the ball, and was bowled. There was great Irish jubilation and McCallan will never forget this victim. Lara in three matches -v- Ireland had now scored 13 runs and had fallen to Hoey, Doak and now McCallan. 100-2-0. Ostler joined Knight and 57 were put on in 11 overs. Ireland were seeking another wicket and probably delayed too long in employing off and leg side sweepers.
Eventually the wicket did fall this time to Gillespie in his third over, the 38th. A good slower ball was driven upwards to short extra cover where Davy held on. 157-3-30. By this time Knight had passed 50 in the 32nd over. Penney joined Knight and 27 were added at a run a ball. The score was 173 after 40 overs. Gillespie claimed his second wicket in his fifth over, the 42nd. Penney got a ball that bounced a little but played a poor shot and was caught at the wicket. 184-4-7. The left handed Hemp ex Glamorgan, was next and his stand with Knight was decisive. In 17 overs the pair added 107 and another wicket did not fall until the second last over of the 60.
After 40 overs the score was 173 and went to 195 in 45 overs. After 50 overs it was 220, five runs per over. Knight reached 100 in over 51 out of 223 in 155 balls. At 216 Hemp, then only nine, hit a hard chance overhead to Dunlop at wide mid-on. From over 50 to 55 35 runs were scored to bring the score to 255. Then the tempo increased. 15 runs came in over 56 (Heasley) including a hooked six to Hemp. The next over (Cooke's last) gave up 10 including a glorious "pick-up" shot for six by Knight. With eight balls to go Heasley got Hemp. He was caught at the wicket swinging wildly. 291-5-45. The last over produced 11 and left Knight undefeated with 143 off 183 balls with a six and 11 fours. He was the figure around whom the innings was built and he did score about half the runs.
Ireland's fielding and throwing were excellent on a very big ground. Six bowlers were used of whom Cooke (56 runs), Eagleson (53) and McCallan (45) all bowled their 12 over stints. Davy was expensive, 53 in eight overs and Gillespie might have been used for more than five overs (two for 27).
McCallan and Joyce started for Ireland at 7.22 p.m. Regulations ordained that play would go on until eight. It was imperative that Ireland did not lose a wicket. Seeing this Warwickshire raised the over rate and got through 11 overs from Welch, Small and Munton in 38 minutes. Ireland only managed 16 runs, McCallan 12 and Joyce three. This necessary caution was a disadvantage on the second day. On a bright second morning Ireland got going briskly against Small and Munton. In Munton's first over of the day McCallan on-drove, square cut and deliberately snicked over the sole slip's head - each time for four.
Another cover drive in Munton's next over took McCallan to 29 at which point he was dropped at the wicket. After 18 overs the score was 51, 35 in seven overs this morning. Then Munton bowled McCallan with a ball which nipped back off the seam. 51-1-32. Smyth arrived and was his usual brisk self. After 20 overs the score was 55. Smyth took seven off the next Munton over. Joyce accelerated and the 25th over (Munton) saw 14 scored including two square cut boundaries to Joyce. Hemp replaced Small and got Smyth at 99 in the 28th over. The ball jumped and Smyth followed it to give a catch at the wicket. 99-2-19.
Heasley came and 100 was raised in over 29. Then Joyce got five from an overthrow. Heasley got seven off a Hemp over. Two overs later Joyce followed suit with seven off another Hemp over. This brought Joyce to 50 at 137 after 34 overs. He faced 89 balls. The spin twins Smith (off spin) and Giles (slow left ann) then came on. The scoring was still quite good. 140 in 35 overs became 164 in 40. Seven came from the 41st and eight from the 43rd. 122 were now required in 17 overs.
Then three wickets fell in four overs. Giles bowled Heasley with a quicker ball which went with his arm. Giles started life as a seam bowler with Surrey. Heasley had made 36 in 55 balls and had put on 83 with Joyce in 16 overs. 182-3-36. In the next over Smith had Patterson caught at the wicket pushing forward. Then Joyce fell in Smith's next over, the 47th. Trying to increase the pace he leapt out to a ball which bounced over his attempt to square cut and he was stumped. His well made 73 came off 119 balls with five fours and he was his usual calm self.
Lunch came after 48 overs at 193 for five. Dunlop three and Gillespie two. Now only 12 overs remained to get 110. In those 12 overs 68 were scored. A four by Gillespie brought up 200 in over 51. Munton came back for Smith and Dunlop hit a six to mid-wicket. Gillespie got 20 in 29 balls before being caught at long off. 233-6-20. The stand of 43 came in nine overs. Eagleson was yorked by Giles at 240 and Rutherford was lbw in the same over. The last two overs (Smith and Ostler) saw 21 more runs added, 16 of them to Dunlop who hit another mid-wicket six off Smith.
Dunlop finished with 44 in 42 balls. In the four matches -v- Counties in 1998 he had scored 153 for twice out. Altogether it was a very satisfactory reply. On the second day Ireland, in 49 overs, scored 245 runs. 261 was Ireland's best score in the NatWest or Gillette Cups. Knight was Man-of-the-Match. Warwickshire used seven bowlers. Munton's 12 overs cost 79, Smith's 11 cost 60 but Giles took four for 29 in his 12 overs. Welch and Small, the opening bowlers only gave up 27 runs in 17 overs between them.