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Match Report
Ian Callender

After his hand injury against Somerset yesterday, Andre Botha was unavailable for this match and was replaced by John Mooney. The remainder of the team was the same as yesterday.

During the course of this match Trent Johnston reached 1,000 runs in his 52nd Match and 50th innings (44th to this mark) and Kyle McCallan reached 3,000 runs in his 163rd match and 151st innings. McCallan is only the 5th to reach 3,000 runs

Ireland took Hampshire to the last over of their latest Friends Provident Trophy match but it was never that close. A perfectly paced unbroken third wicket partnership of 143 between Zimbabwean Sean Ervine and England's Kevin Pietersen saw the county home with four balls to spare under the Duckworth/Lewis system after they were set 175 in 29 overs. Rain delayed the start of the Hampshire innings by 100 minutes after Ireland posted 221 for six, thanks a late flourish from captain Trent Johnston and Kyle McCallan, but with the hosts fielding six Test players even the increased run-rate was no problem.

Not only did Hampshire use Kevin Pietersen for the first time in exactly a year, but they also gave Australia's Stuart Clark his first one-day game of the season, recalled England's Chris Tremlett and of course they were captained by the great Shane Warne. Once Ireland's only professional, Nantie Hayward bowled four wides in the first over the writing was on the wall and when John Mooney's solitary over - the 10th of the innings - went for 15, the home team could ease to the winning post. Hayward, the South African professional in his second match for Ireland, again went for six an over and had only one wicket to show for his efforts, although Gary Wilson failed to hold on when he reached a high top edge from Ervine with less than 25 wanted to win.

Dave Langford-Smith was the other wicket-taker and generally bowled a better line than his Test-class opening partner while Johnston's last over summed up his ill-luck, a series of edges adding up to 14 runs. McCallan was the only bowler to trouble Pietersen but the England star's experience saw him through, waiting for the inevitable loose ball. He was matched run by run by Ervine who hit seven boundaries, two more than the adopted Englishman.

For the second successive day, Ireland lost an early wicket to put them under immediate pressure, Jeremy Bray nibbling outside his off stump and getting an edge through to the keeper. William Porterfield, as he did so often in the Caribbean, made a positive start, hit four boundaries, including two in succession off Dimitri Mascharenhas, but then cut one to a wide slip and Warne held the catch. Kevin O'Brien and Peter Gillespie added 51 for the third wicket, a partnership interrupted by rain which reduced Ireland's innings by two overs. It was consolidation rather than acceleration at first, O'Brien hitting just one boundary in his 63-ball stay but Gillespie, with the help of an inside edge got off the mark and for 30 overs showed why he was Ireland's top run-scorer in the competition last year.

Not afraid to use his feet, even against the wicketless Warne, the Strabane batsmen brought up a patient 50 - with five boundaries - from 75 balls but, just as he was going for the big finish, he pulled Ervine into the hands of deep square leg. Gillespie had lost Andrew White, to a stunning one-handed catch above his head at second slip by Chris Benham, and Gary Wilson, to the first shot he middled, going for his fourth boundary. In contrast almost everything that Johnston connected with came out of the sweet part of the bat and in 36 balls he struck three sixes and two fours to bring up his first one-day half century for two years. His fifth run was also his 1,000th for Ireland.

McCallan, in wonderful form with the bat since his return from a horror run in the World Cup, scored 21 from 15 balls and became only the fifth batsman - behind Stephen Warke, Ivan Anderson, Alan Lewis and Angus Dunlop - to go past 3,000 international runs. Ervine's bowling proved to be Ireland's path to a competitive total - his four overs cost 44 runs as Johnston and McCallan added 57 from 31 balls but the bowlers, after their World Cup heroics are finding it much more difficult back home.

National coach Phil Simmons subsequently admitted this Friends Provident Trophy game against Hampshire was a missed opportunity to record their first win of the season. With wickets in hand for the last few overs, Trent Johnston and Kyle McCallan did to the county attack what the counties have been regularly doing to Ireland for the last two years and scored quick, late runs - 53 of them in four overs. Even the rain helped Ireland with Hampshire set a run-a-ball target by the Duckworth/Lewis system used in rain reduced matches, in spite of Ireland scoring at just over four and a half runs an over themselves.

"A target of 175 in 29 overs is hard to get but we made it easy with the amount of extras we bowled and a couple of dropped catches. It was an opportunity missed," said Simmons. Although, it must be said, the umpires appeared to give Hampshire more leeway in calling wides than they did when Ireland were in the field, there was no argument about which was the more disciplined bowling attack. Hampshire bowled the first of their two wides - in 48 overs, remember - in the 32nd over; Ireland bowled 13 in just 29 overs, four of them in the first of the innings from Nantie Hayward. But Simmons still has faith in his first choice as this year's overseas professional.

"Hayward was excellent on Sunday (when he took three for 60 in 10 overs), Taunton is hard ground to defend on, but while he struggled a little yesterday (one for 39 in six overs) I still like him and I'm sure he'll soon be back to his best. You want him to get wickets early and to do so he will try harder, so runs might come, but he's able to pull back and there's always next time," added the coach, who also refuted the argument the bowlers were finding it more difficult bowling to county batsmen than they did in the World Cup.

"We were up against two international batsmen (Kevin Pietersen and Sean Ervine) yesterday and we dropped a couple of catches (although one of them was when the game was all but won), so it is not as if the bowlers are bowling badly or struggling. We didn't field as well as we normally do and conceded more extras so it's not we are finding it harder but we are not just as sharp as we are in the Caribbean," said Simmons. "In the Caribbean we fielded every day, we practised every day, so it's a different scenario. The guys are only coming together the day before the game, so that's something we'll have to look at. I suppose that's how it's been for a while but we have to try and work round it and we'll gather on Wednesday and put something in place that will make us sharper on Thursday."

Hopes of getting the players any earlier than the day before a game would appear non-existent for the moment and, as the new coach said, that's something he will have to get used to. Indeed, Kyle McCallan and Dave Langford-Smith will miss the 1 p.m. practice session today because of work commitments although both will arrive in Dublin in time for tonight's team dinner this evening. Simmons is also hoping to have a squad of 13 for the game. He accepts it may not happen on Sunday, when club games are set to clash with the game against Essex but that is another change he hopes to enforce in his new regime.

"We need someone to replace (the injured Andre) Botha, but we need 13. There are no club games on Thursday and I want to keep everybody together and hopefully add someone," he said. Simmons will need two players to keep a 13-man squad, however. John Mooney pulled out of the squad on Tuesday night.