The vital season of 2005 began for Ireland unusually early and against new opponents. Ireland went to Loughborough to practice, train and be coached (by Andy Flower, the former Zimbabwe Test player) at the wonderful ECB academy facilities. The University has first class status and had played two three-day matches, both draws, v Sussex and Nottinghamshire. However they proved to be no match for Ireland who recovered from 55 for 3 to win by 163 runs. This could and perhaps should have been an even greater win, as Loughborough were 36 for 5 and 75 for 8.
13 players were selected from the Winter training panel to play this match and one against Warwickshire the following day. Nine of these had played in the last two matches of 2004 v Bangladesh (Botha, Bray, Gillespie, McCallan, Molins, Cooke, McCoubrey, Shoukat and Dom Joyce). The remaining two players v Bangladesh were Andy White (contracted to Northamptonshire) and wicket keeper Bushe who, for business reasons, had withdrawn from the panel in the Autumn. It was decided that Bray would keep wicket on this trip. Though he had never done so in cricket in Dublin it appeared he had some experience of the job from his time in Australia before he came to Ireland. The four remaining places in the party were taken by Johnston, Morgan and the two Mooney brothers. Cooke and Shoukat were left out of this match.
The 11.00 am start was on a good pitch when Loughborough put Ireland in. In 13 overs Ireland were 55 for 3 with both Bray and Botha run out. Miller (pretty quick) and Cummins opened the bowling and bowled 7 overs each. Molins played a dot ball, and then received a wide. Next ball he played down the wrong line to Miller and was bowled - a frequent type of error by Molins. 1-1-0. Botha came in and after 8 overs the score was 29. Off the third ball of Miller's fifth over Bray, the non-striker, called a run, was sent back but a direct throw ran him out. He had faced 24 balls for 5 singles. 29-2-5. Joyce was next and 26 runs were put on in 4 overs, Joyce hitting three fours in his first 11 balls. Then Botha, facing, was run out by the same fielder who had run out Bray. 50 had come up earlier in this 13th over but Botha called a run off its last ball to short square leg. A direct hit on the bowler's wicket ran him out. 55-3-19.
The top three had now gone but the next three all exceeded 50. Clark and Wainwright came on for a double change. Joyce was 16 when Gillespie joined him. The former monopolised the early part of the partnership. He hit the new bowlers for 3 fours. In 17 overs the score was 81 with Joyce 34 and Gillespie a single off the five balls he had faced. With Gillespie now getting more of the strike the rate slowed but Joyce hit a six in over 22 to bring up 100. The next three overs saw 22 runs scored, mainly by Gillespie. Next over Joyce, at 127, reached his 6th fifty for Ireland in only 61 balls. Panesar was tried and Wainwright returned for Clark (over 29). Joyce hit him for four but off the last ball of the over was caught at long-on. His 60 came in 74 balls with a six and eight fours. It was a silky performance but Andy Flower (helping to coach the Irish) admonished Joyce. Flower had said that in a Limited Overs Match no batsman should be caught on the boundary between overs 15 and 35! The Joyce/Gillespie stand added 93 in 16 overs - a rate of a run a ball. 148-4-60.
Gillespie was now 35 and he was joined by Morgan, still only 18 years of age but in his third International season. This stand, in seven overs, realised 42 more runs. 150 was up after 30 overs so if wickets remained intact 300 was "on". Morgan's share of the 48 stand was only 12, one four and 8 singles. In over 34 Gillespie hit Panesar for a four and a six to take him to 52 in 50 balls - his 13th half century. Two overs later he hit Panesar for another six but was LBW next ball for a most valuable and typical Gillespie 58 in 60 balls with three sixes and three fours. 190-5-58. Johnston was next but lasted only five balls before, in Panesar's next over, he mishit a ball and was caught close to the wicket. 196-6-2.
McCallan now joined Morgan who had now scored 15 off 25 balls. In exactly 11 overs 81 runs were scored and ensured a large total. After 39 overs 200 was up. When Wainwright was bowled out Clark returned. For a while scoring was mostly in singles but after 42 overs (score 214) the rate increased. The 45 over score was 232. The came 9 runs in over 46, 8 in over 47, and 13 in over 48 in which Morgan hit Cummins (on for Panesar) for two sixes. Miller had also returned to bowl. In over 49 Morgan hit him, off successive balls, for four six two. The four brought Morgan to 51 in 50 balls, his second 50 for Ireland. Off the fifth ball of Miller's over Morgan was out for 60 in 53 balls - the fastest scoring of the innings, a rate of more than a run a ball. 277-7-60. Paul Mooney came in to face the sixth ball. It was a wide but the extra ball accounted for Mooney who shovelled it to square leg. John Mooney came next for the last over. McCallan gave Mooney the strike with a single. Then Mooney hit Cummins for 13 off five balls, including a four and a six, to complete the innings at 292 for 8. McCallan was 20 not out off 40 balls.
Loughborough used only 5 bowlers, each bowling 10 overs. Two conceded over 60 and two more over 50. Miller had 3 for 62. The least expensive was Wainwright who had one for 42.
Loughborough started at 3.00 and the match was over at 6.00 after 41.3 overs. When the 5th wicket fell at 36 in the 12th over and the 9th wicket fell in the 31st over at 94, it looked like it might be over much quicker. However the last pair added 35 in 11 overs to prolong the issue. Harrison and Foster opened to Johnston and McCoubrey. In three overs Johnston gave up 23. In his second over Harrison hit a six and a four and in his third over two more sixes were hit by Harrison. Then McCoubrey had Foster caught in the gully for a 13 ball nought. 24-1-0. Then, in his 5th over, Johnston took two wickets in four balls. First Atri was caught at deep mid-on. 28-2-1. Three balls later Gifford was bowled. 28-3-0.
Singh came in but before he faced a ball Harrison was caught at mid-wicket off McCoubrey in the 10th over. The score was 32 of which Harrison had made 30 from 32 balls out of 59 bowled to that point. He hit two fours and three sixes. Murtagh was next and he was run out in the 12th over. Singh was facing but both batsmen found themselves at the wicket-keeper's end. Joyce walked in to break the bowler's wicket.
Clark joined Singh in a 37 run stand in just over 11 overs - the best stand of the innings. Botha and Paul Mooney came on to bowl and Clark had most of the strike. 50 came up in over 19. Singh suddenly cut loose and in two overs hit three fours. Then, once again, two wickets fell in one over. Cooke had come on to field for McCallan (off with a back injury). He it was who caught Clark off Botha. This was a good low catch at deep mid-off. 73-6-19. Two balls later the newcomer, Wainwright, was bowled by Botha. 73-7-0. John Mooney replaced his brother and his 4th ball had Singh caught at first slip. 75-8-22. The last two wickets added 54 with all three batsmen involved doing well. 19 were added by Miller and Cummins of which Miller made 15 aided by a four of John Mooney and a six off McCallan (on for Botha). Miller was bowled by McCallan with the ball after the six hit. 94-9-15. Panesar joined Cummins and the pair held out for 11 overs and 35 runs. Both hit boundaries early on and 100 came up in over 33. Morgan bowled an over and then Botha came back but it was J.F.Mooney who eventually got the last wicket. Panesar hit him for four but was LBW next ball.
Ireland used seven bowlers and four of them took two wickets each and only Botha bowled 10 overs. Johnston had 2 for 26 in six overs, McCoubrey 2 for 11 in six, Botha 2 for 19 in 10 and John Mooney 2 for 34 in 9.3. The fielding and catching were very good and the win was a good start in what will be a long and very important season.