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Comment - Familiar Problems Surface For Ireland

William Porterfield
William Porterfield was a disappointed man following the match against Guyana
©Interational Cricket Council

Although the formalities were completed when Max Sorensen’s late defiance ended in tame fashion - chipping straight to Shiv Chanderpaul at mid-off - the race was run for Ireland long before then.

It was lost before both William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien were trapped in front for all but zilch or Andrew Poynter was left stranded mid-pitch.

The damage was done during an irreparable 40-minute session - during which 141 runs were leaked in just eleven overs - at the back-end of Guyana’s innings. It was, alas, an all too familiar situation Phil Simmons’ side found themselves in.

Ireland's Super50 debut

Guyana 301-3 (Sarwan 89no)
Ireland 187 (Poynter 54, Wintz 3-30)
Guyana won by 114 runs

Remaining Fixtures

Ireland v Jamaica - 3rd February

Ireland v Windward Island - 7th February

Left utterly hapless, dumbfounded and clueless on how to combat the unrelenting onslaught. It was Malahide all over again, or was it Clontarf when Kamran Akmal and Wahab Riaz laid siege? The similarities are almost indistinguishable.

Their attempted yorkers turned into freebie full tosses; similarly, their good-length deliveries became enticing half-volleys; everything was bludgeoned to or over the rope. Ramnaresh Sarwan, known more for his artistry than oppressive prowess, was the chief tormentor this time around as he tucked into anything within his eyeline, inflicting further damage on the perplexed Irish bowlers with every swing of the bat.

A cursory glance at the scorecard doesn’t make for pleasant reading but on the whole, figures can be deceptive. Not on this occasion, however. The blame cannot be attached to one or two individuals or one detrimental over. Nor does this mean that Ireland are a bad bowling side all of a sudden but this is undoubtedly a problem that will continue to rear it's menacing head unless addressed. It’s a quandary that needs tackling, pronto.

The fact that Guyana’s 301 for three was the eighth highest List-A total at the Queen’s Park Oval tells its own story.

"They bowled a lot straighter than we did," captain William Porterfield proclaimed afterwards.

"The spinners probably bowled a bit quicker than what we did as well. So we've got to adjust pretty quickly to these conditions, and I don't think by any means it was a 300 wicket, not taking anything away from the way Guyana played. But I think we could have quite easily restricted them to a lot less.

"I think we've just got to be slightly more consistent with the ball. I think we gave a few too many scoring opportunities."

On this occasion, perspective must be added, however. A bowling unit - which is largely unpractised at international level (although this was officially a List A fixture) - came up against two of the finest West Indian batsmen of their generation and in Chanderpaul, one of the outstanding run-scorers in recent history, on a flat track.

"The benefit of unearthing such a frailty at this early stage means there are sufficient opportunities to right the wrongs.

"The only way to enhance the required skills with the ball is to execute them in match situations."

It mustn't be forgotten that this is Ireland’s would-be ‘off-season’. Rustiness is inevitable after several weeks away from the game either side of Christmas but that excuse doesn’t mask Ireland’s obvious shortcomings in the powerplay and death overs.

"We let ourselves down throughout the game – we were a bit rusty after just a couple of days training. It is to be expected, but it is not an excuse," Porterfield, who fell for a duck in the run chase, admitted.

The conditions for batting were favourable but Kevin O’Brien and Andy McBrine apart, there was no control, penetration or resistance.

Sorensen only managed five overs up-top while George Dockrell struggled through four before being pulled from the attack, not to return.

Although wicket-taking deliveries were few and far between and the Guyanese batsmen looked at considerable ease, Ireland managed to stifle the run-rate and maintain an aspect of control during the majority of the innings. That was until the powerplay and the departure of Chanderpaul for 79. A blitzkrieg ensued. The game was lost in the space of 11 overs.

"We executed our game plan perfectly," Sarwan said after picking up the Man of the Match accolade for his breezy 89.

"If you bowl smartly out there you can restrict a team but the platform which we built allowed us to put the bowlers under pressure and we were fortunate our shots came off. We were hoping for 270, so to get 300 was a bonus."

The retirement of Trent Johnston has left an appreciable void in the side; with his death bowling equally as important than his knack with the new-ball. Ireland’s bowling resources are consequently threadbare, no matter what is said about ‘the next generation’. Where are they?

Craig Young, included in the 14-man squad, was handed the role of glorified drinks waiter for the opening game. His raw pace would have added something different to an otherwise toothless attack.

Somewhere back home, Graeme McCarter was no doubt kicking his heels and wondering why he isn’t in the Caribbean. The Gloucestershire seamer has impressed in England and took five wickets against Scotland in September while Stuart Thompson is continually asked to perform 12th man duties - his speed into the middle with the drinks and fresh gloves between overs is impressive, however.

Tim Murtagh is undoubtedly the most competent seamer having been one of county cricket’s most consistent performers over the past decade or so. He can swing it around corners early on and on his day, can cause trouble to the best in the world. 

Alex Cusack, O’Brien and John Mooney are probing but any delivery wide off the mark and they’re ruthlessly punished. It’s fine on the Associate circuit but this is a different ball game.

By no means has Ireland’s attack become impotent overnight. It was their first game since early December, cobwebs are to be expected, it’s only natural. However, if something happens once it’s nothing more than a blip but if it happens again and again then there is an underlying weakness.

With 12 months until the 2015 World Cup, the groundwork has already begun for Australia/New Zealand. The benefit of unearthing such a frailty at this early stage means there are sufficient opportunities to right the wrongs. The only way to enhance the required skills with the ball is to execute them in match situations.

The bowlers get that chance immediately, Jamaica are up next - tonight (Monday 3rd February).

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