IRELAND IN ENGLAND 2023
Balbirnie was impressed with Ireland’s second innings defiance with the bat © Getty
Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie praised the team’s ‘bouncebackability’ even in the visitors’ 10-wicket defeat at the hands of England on the final day of the Lord’s Test. Andy McBrine (86 not out) and Mark Adair (88) combined for a 163-run seventh wicket partnership – Ireland’s highest in seven men’s Tests – to force England to bat again when an innings defeat looked imminent.
“The dressing-room] was a tough place to be yesterday, in the evening particularly, but we showed character today,” Balbirnie said after the loss. “We’ve showed in our Test career that we have that character – and that bouncebackability – but unfortunately for us, it’s when our backs are against the wall, that’s almost when we seem to produce our best cricket.”
Ireland were headed for a heavy defeat after starting the day on 97/3 and James McCollum’s injury meant they were a batter short for the innings. However. the record partnership ensured they eventually finished 12 ahead and England had to pad up again. That may not have been a sufficient target, but a small win for the visitors nonetheless.
“We need to find a way to not get so far behind the eight-ball that you need to really scrap it out. But get to 12 ahead, it’s a small win to get them batting again. And certainly, after three days like that, you have to take those small wins.”
While their inexperience with red-ball cricket had Ireland at an obvious disadvantage heading into the one-off Test, Balbirnie stressed the focus now shifts on white-ball and particularly the 50-overs format ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers.
“You’re looking around in the change-room, wondering what we can do here to get wickets to stop the run-rate. You want to go into a game knowing that, if you play your best cricket, you can be really close to beating them. But I’m not stupid. Everyone saw there was a gap and we have to close that as quick as possible. That’s probably going to come from us playing more red-ball cricket. It’s obvious and hopefully it happens,” Balbirnie said.
Ireland head to Zimbabwe later this week and have two warm-up games – against USA and Netherlands on June 13 and 15 – before getting their qualification campaign underway against Oman on June 19.
Ireland are placed alongside Scotland, Sri Lanka and the UAE in the group, from where the top three teams will advance to the Super Six stage where two teams will book their berth for the main event in India later this year.
“I’ve played in these tournaments before. It’s really cut-throat. If you don’t turn up for a couple of games, your qualifying tournament is over. So the guys need to be switched on, and I think they will be by the time we get out there.
“It’s 9am starts, very early-morning stuff, the games are thick and fast, in a sporadic sort of a schedule. I’ve struggled over the years to differentiate between our [Test and white-ball] groups because it’s many of the same names, but for the one-day team, next week is huge. I said at the start of my tenure that qualifying for that World Cup will be my greatest achievement as captain, and we’ve got three weeks to try to do that.”