Ireland v Wales (Ian Callender)
IRELAND'S cricketers got their 1995 Triple Crown campaign off to the perfect start at Strangford Road, Downpatrick with a comfortable six wicket victory over Wales. Although Wales may be considered the least formidable opponents in the tournament, they did deny Ireland the title in the inaugural tournament in 1993 and amassed 296 in the corresponding fixture last year.
The game did not begin all that auspiciously for Ireland when Wales won the toss and batted on a slow track which provided very little help to the young new-ball attack of Mark Patterson and Ryan Eagleson. Patterson in particular had difficulty in finding a rhythm and seven of the first fourteen runs came from wides. Eagleson managed to remove Mike Newbold in his second over but it was the decision of Lewis to introduce Neil Doak in the 10th over and then Uel Graham in the 13th that had a suffocating effect on the Welsh innings.
From being handily placed at 44 for one after 15 overs, Wales lost their way and slumped to 68 for 4. Doak and Graham bowling in tandem conceded only 23 runs from 19 overs. Kristian Bell, who top scored with 50, was dropped on 32 by Stephen Smyth but it was not to prove too costly in the end. Otherwise a workmanlike performance in the field.
The only blemish in the Irish batting performance was the failure of the openers for the second time in succession. Stephen Warke seemed perhaps a little unlucky but Jason Molins was again bowled while aiming through mid-wicket. A third wicket stand of 69 off 19 overs between Smyth and Lewis ensured that the home side managed to avoid copying the visitors' mid-innings crisis. Benson with 38 not out off 36 balls with a six and four fours hurried Ireland to victory with almost ten overs to spare.
MEANWHILE Scotland started their defence of the Home Internationals with a surprisingly easy victory over England at Comber. The holders bowled out the favourites for 127 and a fourth wicket partnership of 78 between Scottish captain, George Salmond and Gavin Williamson eased them home with eleven balls to spare.
Big hitting English opener, Steve Dean, scored only 12 runs in 20 overs before being run-out by a direct hit from Salmond. Dean injured himself in the process and was advised not to take any further part in the Tournament. The English innings was dominated by their captain, Mike Roberts, who scored 32 out of 40 while he was at the wicket, but once he was out, England lost their last eight for fifty-three.
Ireland v Scotland (Ian Callender)
FOR THE SECOND game of the series the Irish team showed one change from the side that defeated Wales on the opening day. Peter Gillespie came in for Jason Molins. Morning rain meant that the match did not start until after the scheduled luncheon interval and the game was rescheduled to a 42-over match. Further heavy rain caused an abandonment shortly after 4.00 p.m. and for the first time in the competition two teams faced each other to determine the result of the match by a bowl-out, introduced this year instead of the run-rate formula which was used on the two previous occasions at the end of the competition to separate those teams that had finished level on points.
Before the actual cricket was abandoned, Scotland had been put in to bat by Lewis and had reached 77 off 25.1 overs for the loss of their openers. The inital breakthrough came in the 15th over when Patterson tried to hit Graham over the top and was taken by Harrison running from mid-on. Five overs later Ogilby, with a sharp stumping off Doak, made up for an earlier miss off Patterson when the score was 15. Alan Lewis won another toss - for the bowlout - and decided to bowl first. With five players to bowl two balls each at an unguarded wicket the 4-2 reverse meant that Ireland could not win the Competition even if they defeated England Amateur in the third game.
In the other game at Downpatrick no play was possible until 2.30pm and when play did start England Amateurs restricted Wales to 129 for eight after their forty overs but the downpour between innings prevented further play.
England v Ireland (Ian Callender)
The drama of the previous day was again repeated in this `dead' match as Ireland fell one run short of the England Amateur score of 173 for 9 after being put in to bat. Ireland's chase stuttered badly at the start of their innings with three down for 24. Warke and his new opening partner Doak struggled against good bowling and fielding and both went early as they attempted to get the runs total ahead of the overs. Then, in the 16th over, there was further disappointment when Lewis was given out caught behind and it was left to the experienced Smyth and Benson to stage a recovery. Smyth, playing in his 36th match and 44th innings, reached his 1000 runs for Ireland when he had scored 29, and with Benson added 61 off 19 overs before Benson holed out.
Graham came in to maintain the left hand-right hand and reached 17 before being caught on the fence going for a second six. It was now left to Smyth but he was bowled in the 44th over for an excellent 61 with 38 runs still required. Harrison scoring at a run a ball, lost Gillespie to the second ball he received, but added an unbroken thirty four for the eighth wicket with Eagleson. Sixteen were needed off Usher's over to `win' on a tie with less wickets lost but with seven required off the last ball, Harrison's six of the last ball did not matter. With 35 wanted off the last five, the position at the start of the last over should have been better but the accuracy of the English bowlers was the difference between the sides and a wide count of 21 compared with England's six is expensive at this level.
The captain, Alan Lewis, although disappointed at the outcome of his 96th game for Ireland took some satisfaction and relief from it in that after 11 wicketless matches, he reached a personal landmark of 50 international wickets.
Meanwhile, at Ormeau, Scotland confirmed their dominance in the tournament by hammering Wales by six wickets with more than 17 overs to spare. Chasing 149 for victory, the Scots' only setback came five runs short of the winning post when Tim Hemp took a hat-trick in the one over he bowled.