While Ireland's best on county duty, the rest were on the receiving end of a talented South Africa Academy side which has completed its first week in Ireland. The tourists had the better of the three-day drawn game in midweek and at Castle Avenue yesterday had six overs and five wickets to spare when winning the first of 4 one-day games between the teams.
Even the presence of Jonty Rhodes, playing against his country's top youngsters, could not inspire Ireland's second string and for the third innings in succession Angus Dunlop, the captain, was a lone act of defiance. He pulled a thigh muscle when batting and could not lead Ireland in the field but he is expected to return for today's game at Rathmines.
How Ireland need him. At least Barry Archer, 33, got to within half the captain's score, the first batsman this week to do so, and during the fifth-wicket partnership of 80 between the two Dubliners, Ireland were on course for a total in excess of 200. Both were out in the space of four overs. Dunlop was caught on the square-leg boundary for 61 off 64 balls going for his third six and Archer impetuously pulled across the line and was bowled.
Both were victims of Justin Ontong, a 19-year-old from Boland, who showed his prowess with the bat when the South Africans set out in pursuit of 182. Although losing five partners, Ontong reached a well-deserved century with the winning boundary, his 16th, to finish with 101 not out off 126 balls. The next top score was 20 as the Ireland bowlers, - not one of the front five who played in the Triple Crown at the start of the month was available, - toiled away.
Rhodes, dismissed for three and without the opportunity to do anything spectacular in the field, even bowled an over. 12 runs later he was sent back into the covers. Ryan Eagleson, 12th man in last week's county match for Derbyshire, and Ed Joyce, who will make his championship debut for Middlesex this week, are badly missed.
Ireland's defence of a 181 total on a true but slow Castle Avenue pitch yesterday, lasted 44 overs but South Africa Academy had five wickets in hand when they motored past, with the teenager, Justin Ontong in the driving seat and a cultured century in his luggage.
The brave attempt to upset the visitors batting by opening the innings with seamer Richard McDaid and slow left arm, Greg Molins, who had been economical all week, brought early breakthroughs. With Ryan Eagleson making his mark under lights for Derbyshire in midweek and Ed Joyce promoted to the Middlesex team for the English County Championship match against Somerset next Wednesday, Ireland will obviously have to do without a few stars but their replacements will have learned much by the end of this six match programme next week.
Skipper Angus Dunlop has continued his great run of form and seems to be able to lift his game when he sees a South African shirt, scoring a century against the Test side last year and following up innings of 60 and 76 not out in the three-day game this week with another great knock of 61 yesterday. Unfortunately for us, guest star, Jonty Rhodes, seems to be finding it difficult looking at South African shirts, departing caught behind for three off eight deliveries in his third outing.
A straight six and a second smashed over mid-wicket, plus seven fours, were the highlights of Dunlops 64-ball stint in his 95th capped match. He would have had a third six but for the wind holding up a sweep to backward square from a delivery by off spinner Ontong which nestled safely in the hands of Tyron Henderson who positioned himself perfectly just inside the rope. Dunlop was obviously finding a thigh strain a hindrance and, as a precaution, did not field with Allan Rutherford taking over the captain's armband. He later confirmed, however, that he will take his place in the second one-dayer at Rathmines today when South Africa's one Test player in the party, Pat Symcox, is expected to turn out.
Dunlop was one of three Irish players who has impressed the great South African so far. Stephen Smyth had just been in receipt of praise when his progress was terminated when he took on the arm of Ontong in the covers and lost the race to safety by a distance. Kyle McCallan, who just passed the 1000 runs mark for Ireland yesterday, will also be pleased that Symcox, whose forte is off spin, was impressed by his bowling skill. The "Pat" part of his name, incidentally, was brought from Ireland to South Africa by his great-grandmother.
Ireland may have the benefit of the obviously thorough South African approach to the game for an ICC World Cup qualifier sometime in the future. Star batsman Daryll Cullinan has made the most of the fact that his mother was born here and is now an Irish passport holder. Our top order batsmen again found the going difficult against the pace of Dewald Pretorius and Henderson and it was difficult work for everyone in the strong breeze swirling around Clontarf. Barry Archer from The Hills club may only be earning his fifth cap but is already showing that he is not in the least over-awed by the international scene and it is only a matter of time before he breaks the habit of getting into the 30s and then getting out.