By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)
The 2019 Irish cricket season is set to begin, but not at a cricket ground near you, instead it takes place in Spain of all places! The first round of the Inter-Pro’s 50-over competition will be played in the La Manga Cricket Ground.
The IP50 features last seasons champions Leinster Lightning along with the Northern Knights and the North-West Warriors. All three sides have announced their squads for the opening week which takes place between the 22-25th of April.
Ahead of the competition Cricket Ireland announced that IT Consultancy company Test Triangle would replace Hanley Energy as the new sponsor of the Inter-Pro’s, now becoming the Test Triangle Inter-Pro’s. At the announcement, Test Triangle founder and CEO Praveen Madire said, “Irish cricket continues to make great strides in its development on the international stage, and on the domestic front interest and participation has never been greater. Essential to this continued growth is a First-class competition and Test Triangle are very proud to support this through our sponsorship of the 2019 Inter-Provincial Series.”
“2019 promises to be a fantastic competition that we hope all the supporters enjoy and the most deserving team wins the various cups and trophies”.
Reigning champions Leinster Lightning have announced a really strong squad, including the return of medium-pace bowler Barry McCarthy following his time at Durham. George Dockrell, last season’s top run-scorer and top wicket taker in the competition, will continue to captain the side. Dockrell spoke ahead of the games, “There’s an incredibly exciting season coming up and I’m looking forward to starting it all off with IP50 Series out in Spain.”
“It’s fantastic to see the huge number of lads who have been away with the Wolves and the national team over the winter or are heading away with the Academy this weekend.”
“Everyone has had plenty of cricket and they’ll hopefully be staking strong claims for spots with the Lightning and for the national team.”
Lightening head coach Albert van der Merwe, who was named Talent Pathway Manager by Cricket Ireland yesterday, is looking forward to getting the season underway. He told the Cricket Leinster website, “The tournament is expanding and we’re looking forward to getting more quality cricket in. Touring is always good; it brings the group together early in the season and they’ll all learn a little about themselves and as a group.”
“There’s a fresh feel to the squad following the exits of some established players, and it’s really exciting for them going forward.”
Leinster Lightning Squad;
George Dockrell (captain), Andrew Balbirnie,
Peter Chase, Stephen Doheny, Gareth Delany,
Fionn Hand, Tyrone Kane, Josh Little, Barry McCarthy, Kevin O’Brien, Simi Singh, Jack Tector, Lorcan Tucker
Head Coach: Albert van der Merwe
The North-West Warriors have included the up-and-coming wicket-keeper/batsman Marcus Poskitt, who was named in Cricket Ireland’s U19’s training squad last November. He will battle it out with Andrew Austin for the starting spot.
Warriors head coach Ian McGregor feels his side need to improve in this format, “Since the Interpros have started I feel the 50-over game is the one where we’ve been slightly disappointing. It’s surprising given that this is our bread and butter, but hopefully if we get a bit of sun on our backs, we might be able to turn things around a touch.”
“It’s a very tight schedule, but that’s the way things are at this level. It’s also why we spent so much time on our strength and conditioning over the winter- something that stood us in good stead last year.”
“There’s also a good opportunity for the squad to bond over the four days. That was an area of real strength for us last season. This is a really good group and they enjoy each other’s success. We’re looking forward to it,” he concluded.
North-West Warriors squad;
Andrew McBrine (Capt), Ross Allen, Andrew Austin, Andrew Britton, Aaron Gillespie, Graham Kennedy, William McClintock, William Porterfield, Marcus Poskitt, Boyd Rankin, David Rankin, Stuart Thompson, Craig Young
Head Coach: Ian McGregor
Assistant Coach: David Scanlon
The Northern Knights will welcome back Ireland T20 captain Gary Wilson following time out with an eye problem, alongside new Test player James Cameron-Dow, who made his debut against Afghanistan in March. Also included in the squad in the talented 18 year-old wicket-keeper Neil Rock.
Speaking to me ahead of the games next week the Knights head coach Simon Johnston said, “I’m happy with squad this year. As in previous few years the key for us is staying injury free, at one point last year we had 7 starting guys out injured. We certainly couldn’t cope with that again, but we have a number of new faces that have joined us this year and that will add to our strength in depth.”
On the return of Gary Wilson Johnston said, “Willo is returning from a long lay off, as you know, and he’s fit and raring to go. The key for us going forward would be not to overload him too quickly after such a long lay off, as he’s such an important player for both us and Ireland.”
“Neil Rock (pebbles) is a special player, he came on leaps and bounds last year playing Inter-Pro cricket and I know he will kick on again. The boys absolutely love him in the team. He has a huge year coming up, with captaining the Irish U19’s and their qualifying campaign, captaining Rush and of course in his final year of school, big exams. So again it’s important we manage him carefully so he can prioritise the things he needs to at the right times.”
With the games being played in La Manga I asked him if it would be hard for his side to adapt to the different conditions. Johnston said, “La Manga wise, I’ve been out a number of times before and the pitches are really good. They are normally brilliant batting decks and it’s a small ground so it should be higher scoring.”
“One thing which is slightly unique is that for a couple of our guys (the guys in full-time employment) this will be their first hit or bowl of the year on grass which isn’t ideal. First run out being a list A game.”
“But our biggest challenge will be our timings when we are there. We arrive late afternoon on Tuesday then play a double header Wednesday/Thursday.”
“Obviously it’s not ideal but we understand logistic-wise the difficulties of organising such a trip. Plus we have been aware of this for a while so we have planned accordingly to try to minimise the affects,” concluded Johnston.
Northern Knights squad;
Gary Wilson (captain), Harry Tector (vice-captain), Mark Adair, James Cameron-Dow, Marc Ellison, Shane Getkate, James McCollum, Graham McCarter, Rob McKinley, Jacob Mulder, Neil Rock, James Shannon,
Head Coach: Simon Johnston
Team Manager: Andrew Rose
This week’s Test Triangle IP 50 matches;
Monday April 22nd: Leinster Lightning v North West Warriors
Wednesday April 24th: North-West Warriors v Northern Knights
Thursday April 25th: Northern Knights v Leinster Lightning
Picture Credits: Cricket Ireland