The first International was at the end of May -v-Nottinghamshire in the third round of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Cup - Ireland having qualified late in the 2001 season by beating Wiltshire and the Hampshire Board XI in the first two rounds.
A lot had happened in the Winter. Ken Rutherford (Coach) did not continue. A new Coach Adrian Birrell, from Eastern Province in South Africa was appointed. He had both played for and coached the Province. Played 45 matches (1984-'98) as an all-rounder. However he did not take over until April 1st, 2002.
The Irish Selection Committee changed in structure. There would now be only four selectors - the Coach plus one selector from the Leinster, Northern, and North-West Unions. Previously Munster had a selector and the Leinster and Northern Unions both had two selectors.
In Leinster the 2001 selectors M Halliday and L Hogan had both resigned. B Buttimer was appointed for M Halliday in late 2001 and he retained his place as did W Wilson in the North-West. In the Northern Union both JD Monteith and SJS Warke were stood down to be replaced by former International Ian Johnston. Indeed the latter was now the only former International on the Selection panel.
Interprovincials were restored for 2002. There were three teams, Northern, North-West and. South (combined Leinster and Munster). They would play each other twice - once in a 50 overs per team match and once in a two-day match with 70 over limitation on first innings.
Only one Interprovincial, Northern -v- South, was played before the Nottinghamshire match. Another, South -v- North-West, was scheduled but was rained off. In the match that was played David Kennedy (Ballymena) and Peter Davy (Pembroke) were the outstanding batsmen and the latter won the match for the South. Pembroke's opening bowler, Emmet Whaley took 4 for 17.
The new Irish Selection panel chose 26 players for training:-
South (10) CM Armstrong, D Armstrong, AC Botha, PJ Davy, DI Joyce, GL Molins JAM Molins, JF Mooney. PJK Mooney, NJ O'Brien. Of these D Armstrong and NJ O'Brien were uncapped and GL Molins had not played for Ireland since 1999. He withdrew for business reasons to be replaced by G Black, another Leinster Union player. No Munster player was selected. MD Dwyer had retired and. EC Joyce was now full time with Middlesex.
Northern (6) D Kennedy, WK McCallan, AGAM McCoubrey, AD Patterson, IP Shields AR White. The uncapped player was Ballymena's Kennedy who will not play on Sundays. I.P. Shields, a wicket-keeper batsman who had last played for Ireland in 2000, withdrew for personal reasons. JA Bushe another wicket-keeper (last played in 2000) replaced Shields. RL Eagleson and MD Patterson, injury prone and discards after Toronto in 2001 were not recalled.
North West JD Curry, MA Gillespie, PG Gillespie, D Heasley, RW McDaid, WJ McGonigle, GJ Neely, W Porterfield, A Riddles and J Thompson. The last three 2 are uncapped young players. D Heasley had gone from Lisburn to Glendermott. Curry had expressed regret at the Toronto incident and was restored. McDaid was removed from the panel when he did not come to any training sessions.
All the players who played for Ireland in 2001 are thus accounted above, except for two. G Cooke and A Rutherford had gone to South Africa in March 2001 as a preparatory warm up for Toronto in July but both retired after the South African trip.
AR White and NJ O'Brien had attended the South African Cricket Academy with great success in the Spring. Bushe had spent the winter in Australia.
Due to wet weather there was not a great deal of cricket in Ireland up to the selection of a team -v- Nottinghamshire on May 29th. The Selectors would probably liked to have kept the XI which beat Hampshire Board in September, 2001. In two instances this could not be done. DI Joyce was doing exams and unqualified player, AC Botha, was injured. Curry, who might have been restored to the team, was also injured.
The rules of the Competition say that the unqualified players in this match must also play -v- Berkshire in August in what is the 2003 Competition. In view of this the selectors decided Ireland would play no unqualified player -v- Nottinghamshire and await Botha's fitness in the hope of beating Berkshire.
AR White and GJ Neely came into the team to join the nine who had played -v- Hampshire Board in 2001. There were now seven men who could bowl in the team which seemed to be a bowler too many and a batsman too few.
A risk was taken with McCoubrey. He had not played for a month with a thigh strain. The gamble did not work.
Ireland's only previous match -v- Nottingham was over two days at College Park in 1950, with Ireland doing very well in a drawn match.
The Nottinghamshire team in 2001 had in it Read (wicket-keeper), Gallian (their Captain) and Afzaal, all of whom had played for England and Boje, the South African Test slow left arm bowler. Smith (opening bowler) and Pieterson (all rounder) were South Africans with English passports. Both Franks and Gallian were returning after very long-term injuries. Notts had a poor start to the season as regards results.
The day was chilly and showery. The pitch had more life in it than usual at Castle Avenue. Notts won the toss and sent Ireland in. Ireland succeeded in batting the 50 overs. There were two short rain interruptions after three overs and after 13 overs. After 41 overs there was an hour's break.
Molins and Patterson opened to the bowling of Smith and Malik. Malik gave away 12 runs in two overs, seven runs to Molins including a square cut boundary. Harris replaced him and was pulled and square cut brilliantly for three fours by Molins in his first eight balls. Patterson square cut Smith for a four (his only scoring stroke). Three balls later he snicked low to second slip. 31-1-4. In the next over (Harris's second) Molins tried to clip a half volley to leg and was LBW having hit four fours in his 31. 35-2-19.
Three wickets fell in the 40's, at 43, 44, and 48 all to different bowlers. White was LBW to Smith off a ball that came back at him. Gillespie was caught at slip off Harris off the first ball bowled after the second rain break. Francis replaced Smith and Davy hit his second ball for four but played all over the fourth, well up to him, and was the third LBW of the innings.
Heasley now came in to join McCallan and off drove the second ball he faced for 4. 31 for no wicket became 48 for five. There now followed a determined effort by McCallan and Heasley to save the innings. McCallan gave this a great start. Franks bowled a no-ball. The regulations of this Competition laid down that the next ball would be a free hit. McCallan moved to the off side and hit a six over backward square leg. The pair now settled down and 68 runs were put on in 20 overs. Most of these overs were bowled by Boje (slow left arm) and Pieterson (off spin). Notts kept attacking fields but seemed very keen to bowl the overs quickly in case of more rain.
Very few boundaries were hit but the scoreboard was kept moving and there were 16 extras in the stand.
50 had come up in over 15 and 100 arrived in over 29. Heasley was first to go to the last ball of over 35 (Boje). He mishit a pull and skied to short leg. 112-6-26 (two fours). Mooney joined McCallan and 28 more runs were added in just over six overs when rain caused an hour's break at 140 for six. Boje was bowled out after 40 overs and Pieterson at the end of the 42nd over. Harris and Smith were now used at one end while Afzaal (slow left arm) was used at the other - probably still in an effort to bowl overs quickly. In 2001 Afzaal had taken nine wickets at almost 60 runs each.
In 4 overs Afzaal took three for eight which added to a run out finished the Irish innings. Afzaal's second ball had McCallan caught at the wicket for 30 at 144. He faced 92 balls and his only boundary was his free hit six. Mooney and Neely saw 150 up in over 45. Afzaal struck again in his third over. Mooney advanced, head up, and was stumped for 24 off 40 balls. McGonigle was run out in Smith's next over. Neely hit a ball to mid-off. McGonigle set off but was quite rightly sent back and failed to make his ground ahead of Pieterson's throw. McCoubrey had a huge heave at the last ball of the innings and he too was stumped. 164 was respectable but it could have been much better as the bowling was not lethal. The three slow bowlers bowled 24 overs for 51 runs. The four fast bowlers went for 93 in 26 overs. Only nine boundaries were hit.
Notts had not much difficulty knocking off the runs. The win came after 37.2 overs by eight wickets. Only Gallian failed. He made five of an opening stand of 31 with Bicknell and was LBW to Mooney who had changed ends after opening up the hill. This was because McCoubrey broke down after bowling three overs for 18 - one a maiden. Neely had come on for McCoubrey and Afzaal joined Bicknell.
Neely and Mooney did quite well but each bowled three wides (Mooney did so in one over) and 50 was up in over 13. At 46 Molins appeared to drop Bicknell at slip off Neely. W. Porterfield (Donemana) was fielding for McCoubrey. He was temporarily joined by J Morrissey of Merrion when a second substitute was required. McCallan came on for Mooney and Afzaal hit his third ball for six over long-on. McGonigle joined McCallan and there was another five minute rain break. McGonigle bowled only three overs (for seven) and was replaced by Heasley while White came on for McCallan.
After 28 overs 103 was up. The next ball (Heasley) went for four wides but the second ball bowled Bicknell. 108-2-46. In came Johnson and the pace increased despite frequent switching of bowlers. Afzaal went to 56 in 70 balls at 140. McCallan bowled the next over which gave up 14 including successive sixes to Afzaal.
The final six (the fourth of the innings) hit by Johnson off Mooney ended the match after 37.2 overs.
Seven bowlers were tried. Neely's eight overs were the most and cost 34 runs. It was strange that McGonigle only got four overs (in two spells) and they cost only eight runs. Heasley took a wicket but he too, bowled only four overs.
Afzaal was named Man-of-the-Match for his three wickets for eight and 64 not out in 78 balls including three sixes.