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Match Report
Ian Callender, Alasdair Bushe

The Irish squad had barely arrived back from the World Cup in the West Indies when they were back into the "home" domestic season. Of the 15 man squad Boyd Rankin (Derbyshire) and Eoin Morgan (Middlesex) had been recalled by their counties, though in fact neither played for their counties today and under the regulations could have played for Ireland without preventing them from playing subsequently in this competition for their Counties. In addition Paul Mooney had announced his retirement from International cricket after the World Cup. The remaining 12 members of the squad formed the squad for this match.

Under the tournament regulations Ireland would have been entitled to field two non-qualified players. In fact Ireland had signed up a young South African, Vernon Philander, but he had recently suffered a stress fracture and had to withdraw from his contract. Ireland had then entered into arrangements with a young pace bowler, Morne Morkel, but the South African Board had refused him permission to travel to play for Ireland. Accordingly, Ireland had no overseas player for this match.

Report by Ian Callender Belfast Telegraph 30th April, 2007.

The great Ireland homecoming turned into a wake. Barely 500 spectators turned up for the first match on home soil after the squad's World Cup heroics and the players responded in kind.

A disappointing batting performance and a nightmarish last six overs with the ball led to a 58 runs defeat to a Kent side which claimed its first win in this year's Friends Provident Trophy. A few lusty blows at the end by Ireland's most consistent batsman in the Caribbean, Kevin O'Brien, and Kyle McCallan gave Ireland respectability but a total of 173 was the least they would have targeted in reply to the county's 231 for seven. After an encouraging start by William Porterfield and Jeremy Bray, the Ireland batting turned into a procession, with steady line and length bowling from Robert Joseph, Ryan McLaren and Simon Cook producing a series of rash shots. Only three of the Ireland top six reached double figures and no one bettered 13. From 80 for six and - when captain Trent Johnston, on his 33rd birthday, was caught at second slip - 91 for seven, Kent took the pressure off and O'Brien was able to free his massive arms and McCallan showed a welcome return to form. The Waringstown all-rounder hit only two boundaries throughout the World Cup; yesterday he managed five including a six over mid-wicket. But his belated efforts were always doomed to end in failure.

The damage had been done in the last six overs of the Kent innings as, yet again, Ireland's failure to keep it tight at the end was cruelly exposed. A combination of Kevin O'Brien, John Mooney and Andre Botha conceded 33 in three overs but the worst was still to come. After Botha, the team's most reliable 'death bowler', went for 14, he was replaced in the 49th over by Andrew White, presumably because he had 'tied' Ireland's World Cup opener against Zimbabwe with a last over which cost just eight runs. Andrew will admit that was not the best over has ever bowled and this time he did not get away with it. Joe Denly, a 21 year old sometime opening bat, hit him for 2, 4, 6 6 6 6 and with a no ball also included his seven balls went for 32. That took Denly from 66 to 96 and he duly completed his century in the last over, finishing 102 not out with seven fours and five sixes from 97 balls although his second 50 came from just 19 deliveries.

Unfortunately the late damage undid all the good work by the Ireland bowlers in the first 40 overs when they justified Johnston's decision to put Kent into bat. Johnston and Dave Langford-Smith each made an early breakthrough and John Mooney, thrust into the action when Langford-Smith hobbled off in the middle of his fifth over with a swollen ankle, then removed South African Martin van Jaarsveld with his first ball. William Porterfield - who else? - then ran out England Test player Robert Key and when Mooney and White took wickets in successive overs Kent were struggling at 105 for six. Another breakthrough by Johnston in his second spell should have allowed Ireland to put the pressure on the late order batsmen but, for the second successive week, Kent's eighth wicket stand was their biggest. At least Denly and James Tredwell hadn't the time to add 174 - the partnership against Surrey last week - but 99 proved more than enough to bring Ireland home with a bump.

Report in Newsletter by Alasdair Bushe 30th April, 2007.

Ireland's hope of celebrating their World Cup homecoming with an opening victory in the Friends Provident Trophy were scuppered by the Spitfires at Stormont yesterday. The Irish had been determined to give Phil Simmons a winning start to his reign as coach but a combination of a brilliant century by Ken's Joe Denly and some limp top order batting ensured the English county side ran out comfortable winners by 58 runs.

The crowd, basking in the afternoon sunshine in east Belfast, and travelled with high expectations that Ireland could improve on their record in the competition last season, when they won just once against county opposition. Initially, the prospects look good as the impressive bowling and fielding that were such a feature of the Irish march to the Super Eights had Kent on the back foot.

Skipper Trent Johnston had been concerned about the potency of his attack in the absence of spearhead Boyd Rankin, but by the 10th over Kent were reeling on 42-3 after being inserted. Geraint Jones was first to go, aiming an unsightly heave at Johnston and losing his middle stump, and Darren Stevens followed soon after, caught brilliantly by wicket-keeper Niall O'Brien diving full length down the leg side off David Langford-Smith.

John Mooney, introduced in the middle of the 10th over to replace the injured Langford-Smith, struck with his first delivery, yorking the dangerous South African Martin van Jaarsveld. It was hard to fault Ireland in defeat. They continued to take wickets at regular intervals, with some sharp fielding from William Porterfield accounting for Rob Key, Mooney forcing Matthew Walker to play across a straight one and Yasir Arafat hit an Andrew White long hop into the grateful hands of square leg. With Kent 109-6, and then 135-7, Ireland appeared to have a real stranglehold on the game.

If they had wrapped up the innings then, which they might well have done had an overseas pace bowler been in place, Ireland would have been in the driving seat. But Denly, who had played watchfully for the most part on his way to a half-century from 77 deliveries, turned the whole momentum of the match with a stunning display of late innings hitting. The decisive moment came in the 49th over, which Johnston entrusted to the off-spin of White with Langford-Smith still off the field. It was a gamble that had disastrous consequences. Denly began with a two and a four, before hitting four of the next five deliveries for six each over varying parts of the leg-side boundary. An over that started with Ireland attempting to restrict Kent to under 200 finished with 32 runs and a totally different complexion on the match.

Denly reached an amazing century in the final over and Ireland, buoyant just a few minutes before, headed to the lunch interval having leaked 79 runs off the last six overs. Together, Denly and partner James Tredwell had added 99 unbeaten runs for the eighth wicket with the centurion's second 50 coming in just 19 deliveries, as Kent posted 231-7.

There was still a brief flicker of hope in the early overs of Ireland's reply. Jeremy Bray started with two trademark boundaries over extra cover as he added 24 with William Porterfield, but the former's dismissal, caught behind driving off Arafat, started a steady procession to the pavilion. Too many of the dismissals had a familiar feel with none of the top six passing Bray's total of 13. Andre Botha and Niall O'Brien also nibbled at deliveries outside their off-stump and when Porterfield, Peter Gillespie, White and Johnston all departed, Ireland were 91-7 and in danger of embarrassment.

Fears that they wouldn't even reach three figures were averted thanks to 36 from Kevin O'Brien and together he and McCallan added 37 for the eighth wicket. McCallan could barely manage a run in the Caribbean but he was back to his old self here with a well-constructed unbeaten 45 at number nine. A 58 run defeat was by no means a disgrace, but Ireland desperately need the addition of an overseas player in time for next weekend's double-header against Somerset and Hampshire.

Stormont, Belfast