Ireland’s return to Test cricket hasn’t been a memorable one but they can turn it around
Ireland’s return to Test cricket: There is excitement in the Ireland camp ahead of their return to Test cricket after more than three years.
Ireland’s return to the Test arena after missing out for no fewer than three years has fetched more disappointment than it has brought smiles.
Not a big or brash statement. It’s actually quite evident and for all to see.
First, on their maiden assignment to Bangladesh, which was only for a one-off Test match, an occurrence advertised as the next big thing in Ireland cricket, the visitors bundled out on the fourth day of the game.
That the contest reached Day 4 was largely thanks to the tenacity and grit of Lorcan Tucker, whose sensational and now respected century enabled his team to put up some sort of a fight to the Bangladeshi spinners.
Taijul Islam was feasting. Ditto was the case for the legend Shakib.
The rest of the team only had their wounds to lick.
But post the Test match at Bangladesh, it was expected that Ireland would learn and draw lessons from their harrowing loss and come up with something slightly more remarkable against Sri Lanka.
It was expected that the first of the two Test matches held at the Galle International stadium would bring about some resistance on the part of the Irish batters since, as seen previously, batting had been the clear weakling of the side.
On the contrary, it was bowling that suffered on this occasion and rather woefully with the Sri Lankans piling on nearly 600 runs, mounting no fewer than 591, to be precise.
It’s not that Ireland don’t have much skill or talent in their bowling ranks. The trio of Mark Adair, Curtis Campher and Andy McBrine, all of whom are proven wicket taking athletes in the white ball game suffered much to the peril of the blazing bats of the Sri Lankans and much to the distraught fans who’d have been watching the proceedings rather haplessly from back home in Ireland.
In the end, the Irish side, absolutely new to the challenges of facing Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka bundled out but sadly sans any resistance whatsoever on day 3.
Who knows what either of the sides would’ve done on the remainder of the days. But a thing that’s been far too common, particularity in international cricket’s previous two summers is that teams commonly fizz out with the bat in every which way inside the stipulated five days, thus prompting a question the classic test match fan would just hate the game’s administrators to think about:
Should the future of Test match cricket be about four days and not five?
That would suck. It would be the absolute mockery of the sport. Call it a cardinal sin, the likes of which can deplete the pure feeling associated with international test match cricket.
It’s not a practice sport is it in any way?
But then there are lessons for Ireland. First of which point to the direction of the very basic and fundamental question associated with batting:
They must delve deep and ask themselves that how is that they plummeted to an innings defeat on a reasonably flat deck, playing on which their opponents produce a mountain of runs?
What is not going quite right for Ireland? Where is it that they’re missing the trick in five day cricket especially since producing runs rather rapidly hasn’t been much of a problem for them in the white ball versions.
For arguments sake, the big absence of Paul Stirling, an all-time Irish great of the game came in as a rude shock.
Reports in March had already confirmed that one of the most productive and successful run scorers in Irish white ball cricket would join the squad for the Sri Lankan series.
But how can the absence, however big, of a single player affect the overall performance of the rest of the playing eleven?
Unfortunately, that is not a question that can draw any rational or valid responses from the part of the fans; surely, someone like Andy Balbernie can answer that one.
It doesn’t require one to be a clever analyst of Cricket to suggest that when you are the captain of a side, then minus the hype, you’ve really got to lead by an example.
Which somewhere points us to another real reason of how Ireland might have come to suffer so dearly at the hands of Sri Lanka and thus recede to a state of battling.
With scores of 4 and 6, 16 and 3 in this recent and the previous Bangladesh Test, the stable and dependable right hander has been found wanting.
Not in the best of forms, the Irish captain’s sheer lack of runs has really dented a huge hole in their otherwise capable batting order.
But it ought to be noted that with the presence of names like Harry Tector, Curtis Campher and Lorcan Tucker, Ireland are a middle order reliant batting unit, especially in the absence of Paul Stirling.
And while Harry Tector (76 runs at Galle) did offer some runs this time around, it was left on who in his team could shoulder the task of big run scoring and who’d be prepared to put the big hours at the wicket?
Of course, it’s needless to say that what would augur well for the fans watching Test cricket at the time of the IPL, the big headline maker, would be Ireland finding form immediately and looking deep for some sort of inspiration.
They’re currently lagging in all departments of the game.
Even if that means Balbernie holding himself responsible in some capacity for the torrid loss or for his team hitting the nets rigorously in this unsparing heat of the Sri Lankan summer.