There was much cloud and much tension in the air over Lurgan yesterday when the first of three days against South Africa Academy was abandoned without a ball bowled. Overnight rain had seeped onto two places where fast bowlers might pitch the ball, causing umpires Stu Daultrey and Beattie Arlow to rule, in early afternoon, that "conditions were unsuitable for cricket", according to an ICU statement.
While visiting skipper Van Den Berg was willing to play, Ireland counterpart, Angus Dunlop agreed with the umpire's view because of the risk of injury from possible varied bounce from their quick bowlers. South African head coach Hylton Ackerman made it clear that he was very disappointed that Ireland did not accept the offer that his side would bat first, as the umpires could at any time rule conditions "dangerous" and call an end to proceedings. ICU honorary secretary, John Wright, did not hide his disappointment that Ireland were not prepared to see how the pitch would play. It will now be a two-day match.
How the wheels of Fortune turned for some members of the Ireland senior team when a two-day match eventually got underway at Lurgan. Ireland declared at 203 for seven, after 64.5 overs, when Jonty Rhodes, who must have been feeling very frustrated before this a great knock of 86 from 138 deliveries including 10 fours and 16, got out. Skipper Angus Dunlop, on the other hand, saw his great run against the visitors come to an end when he was adjudged LBW to Dewald Pretorius for nought on the second ball he received.
Before that opening batsmen Kyle McCallan and Barry Archer had bravely faced up to Pretorius and Andre Nel totting up 21 and 27 respectively. At the close of play South Africa were 73-2 after 27 overs and the contest will begin in earnest when they hopefully declare some time this morning.
Three great catches by Irish fielders in the deep during the last hour of the two-day match at Lurgan yesterday checked the South African Academy side's charge to victory, earning the home side a draw. It was a good day's entertainment with the visitors declaring their first innings at 119-2, 84 runs behind Ireland, and Dunlop then declaring at 167-8 to invite the opposition to score 252 in 45 overs.
They needed 150 off the last hour, a minimum of 20 overs, and it was Paul Mooney and Peter Gillespie (2), who are dropped from the panel for the matches at Waringstown tomorrow and Eglinton on Sunday, who took those great catches. Into the panel come Peter Davy, Jason Molins and Dwayne McGerrigle.
This was the fastest pitch of the tour so far and Dewald Pretorius, in particular, had the Irish chasing the ball. Although Jonty Rhodes was eventually caught behind, as were Barry Archer, Allan Rutherford and Paul Mooney, he had given many lessons on moving swiftly into position in his 82 off 115 deliveries.
Kyle McCallan and Angus Dunlop were both caught off lifting deliveries from Pretorius to second slip, while Stephen Smith's bad run continued when he played on to his wicket as he attempted to defend. Incidentally, Dunlop's "pair" was last matched by Hugh Milling against Zimbabwe in 1986.