Three matches were played over three successive days in July -v- The English Cricket Board (ECB) the opponents who deprived Ireland of the European Cup by one run in 2002.
A Triple Crown was last played in 2001. Ireland were keen to revive it but Scotland, now in the National Cricket League involving 16 matches, could not find time. So E.C.B. agreed to these matches in Ireland.
ECB brought 13 players all of whom, other than their captain Foster, were playing Minor Counties cricket. Eight of their players in this first match had played in their one run victory in Waringstown in 2002. They were Foster (captain) Mole (wicket-keeper), Hughes, Howitt, Chapman, Akhtar, Brown and Sharp. Newcomers in their panel were Wilson and Humble (quick bowlers), Boroughs (all rounder), Adshead and Hall (batsmen). For this first match Brown and Wilson were left out.
Ireland had to change captains. This role reverted to McCallan because Molins was unavailable due to work. His place in the panel was taken by Ralph Coetzee, a South African with an Irish passport and living for some years in Belfast. He is left handed and a slow bowler cum batsman who had done well in the Inter-Provincials for the Northern Cricket Union. He was left out of this first match as the Malahide pitch looked too green for a spinner. The pitch was hard but was slow and low. The day was overcast and looked like rain but the sun was out in the evening. McCallan sent ECB in to bat.
All went Ireland's way for seven overs. The opening bowlers (P Mooney and Neely) took a wicket each - this after the first over (Mooney) gave up 11 runs including a back foot four to extra cover and a pull for four off successive balls by the right handed Adshead. Mooney's second over was a maiden. Then Neely took a wicket in his second over. Adshead misjudged the line of a ball, let it go, and it hit middle and off. 14-1-12. The left handed Howitt, who made 83 in this match in 2002, came and went for five in 17 balls. In the seventh over he was bowled off his pads by a full length ball from Mooney which kept low. 21-2-5.
Hall joined Hughes so now there was a right hand, left hand (Hughes) partnership. It was easily the best of the innings, 83 runs coming in 25 overs. Seven fours were hit, five by Hall. The opening bowlers bowled five overs each and the score was 31 after 10. Then John Mooney, in his fourth International match, got his first bowl. He did very well, bowling six overs for 12 runs, while Armstrong bowled four overs for 20. Armstrong's second over (16th) cost 10 and 50 came up.
By the 20th over the slip fielder was gone. Then McCallan and Botha were tried with the score in the 70s. The 25 over score was 83. Then the run rate went up. In five overs, 27th to 31st, 35 runs were scored, 100 coming up in over 29. Hall was perilously close to being lbw to Botha and O'Brien appeared to miss a stumping chance offered by Hughes off McCallan in over 28. The 30 over score was 111, so ECB would be aiming to double that, which is what happened.
The third wicket eventually fell to McCallan. Hughes drove at a ball which Armstrong caught at mid-on. 119-2-40. Chapman came in to join Hall who went to 50, off 92 balls, out of 123 in over 34. McCallan bowled out his 10 overs and John Mooney came back for his remaining four overs. Both did well and a 35 run stand for the fourth wicket took nine overs. Both batsmen were advancing looking for gaps and the running was good, but the score was only 153 after 40 overs.
Then Botha came back and his third ball bowled Chapman who stepped back to drive. 154-4-15. Boroughs came to join Hall but he, too, was bowled by Botha while driving at a ball that kept low. 166-5-4. The left handed Mole joined Hall but not for long. White bowled one over. Then Neely returned and had Hall caught at the wicket at once. Hall pushed at the ball which moved away from him. His 73 was the centrepiece of the innings lasting 114 balls with six fours, twice as many as any other batsmen. 168-6-73.
Foster joined Mole and Neely's next over, 46th, was the most expensive of the innings, conceding 13 runs. Each batsman got a boundary, but Foster's was a snick. The run rate was now four an over for the first time. Neely compensated in his next over, the 48th, when Mole skied the first ball very high to mid-on where Gillespie made no mistake. 181-7-12. Akhtar and Foster put on 12 in 10 balls, bringing up 200. Then Botha, in his last over, had Akhtar caught by Bray at mid-on off a mishit. Foster and Humble got another 10 in the remaining seven balls to make the final score 213 for eight. 60 had come in the last 10 overs and, on this pitch, 213 looked a good score. Only 15 fours were hit and Ireland fielded well.
Seven bowlers were tried. Neely and Botha took three wickets each and their economy rate was just over four per over. John Mooney and McCallan went at three per over but only McCallan, of these two, took a wicket.
In reply, Ireland were eight for two in four overs. This improved to 49 for two after 15 overs. Then, at that score, three wickets fell in 11 balls! The recovery by the tail was good in runs, another 112 were scored, but the rate was too slow and the runs were still 52 short when the last wicket fell.
Sharp, the very tall opening bowler, was Ireland's downfall. He bowled his 10 overs in one stint and took four of the first five wickets for 16 runs. ECB used six bowlers and the main four, who bowled 38 overs between them, were all inexpensive. Chapman, slow left-arm, came on for over 27 and took 3-38 in his 10 overs. Ireland were outplayed in batting and bowling and were unable to graft their way forward on, admittedly, a difficult pitch.
In the absence of Molins, White was tried as Bray's opening partner. Humble began, quickish, followed by Sharp. Bray, half forward to his second ball, was lbw for the second time in his, to date, four dismissals for Ireland. 2-1-1. In came Botha, but he lost White in Sharp's second over. White pushed forward in a crouched position and was bowled off stump. 8-2-2.
O'Brien joined Botha and hit the first four of the innings through mid-off. Botha followed with two fours to extra cover in Humble's fifth over. The score was 36 in 10 overs, after which the medium paced Akhtar replaced Humble. O'Brien got his third four, to extra cover, in Akhtar's first over. The lone slip was gone for the 12th over and Botha hooked Akhtar for a four in the 13th. Then came disaster in overs 14, 15 and 16. Three wickets fell in 11 balls for no runs. Sharp took the first. Botha played a dreadful head up heave and was bowled. 49-3-22. Next over O'Brien played as bad a shot as Botha's and skied Akhtar to mid-on. 49-4-18. Gillespie faced four balls before being lbw to Sharp on a ball that kept low. 49-5-0.
Now McCallan and Joyce did their best to retrieve the innings, but slowly. They put on 37 in almost 15 overs. 50 was up, with a wide, in over 16. Foster came on for Sharp in over 22 but he, too, bowled his medium pace accurately, ending eventually with 10 overs for 29 runs. Foster was joined by Chapman, slow left-arm, for the 27th over with the score on 76. At 86 another pair of wickets fell to the first and fifth balls of Chapman's third over. McCallan and Joyce had played five maidens in the course of their stand and McCallan had snicked two fours. At 86 Joyce tried to sweep the ball outside the off stump and was caught at the wicket. Four balls later Paul Mooney was yorked. 86-7-0. Armstrong, coming in at number nine, now took a hand in making the score respectable. He shared a 36 run stand with McCallan and 30 more with John Money.
100 was up in over 36 but scoring was mostly in singles until Armstrong hit Chapman for a four to fine leg, the first and only four off his bowling. With the final ball of his 10 overs stint Foster took a wicket in over 40. McCallan drove him straight to extra cover. McCallan's innings was the longest. He faced 63 balls for his 32. Boroughs, medium paced right arm, replaced Foster. John Mooney and Armstrong put on 30 in 30 balls, almost every ball producing a single. 150 came up in over 45. Then, in that over, Chapman repeated Foster's feat by taking a wicket with the final ball allowed to him. He had Armstrong caught at long off. Ireland had not tried the "aerial" route nor used their feet until then. Armstrong's 38 was the top score and came in 50 balls but with only one four. Akhtar replaced Chapman. Neely hit the first ball he bowled to long-off. Mooney wanted two and came but was sent back and run out.
It was, in general, a poor display by Ireland, not helped by a pitch which was difficult, indicative of which was that only 24 fours were hit over the two innings.