Ian Callender, Newsletter (Belfast)
Ireland's season ended in massive frustration yesterday with the last two days of their Inter-Continental Cup clash with Scotland abandoned without a ball bowled – and without a drop of rain during the hours of play. The torrential rain that flooded the Mannofield ground on Friday night got under the covers and left a damp area that covered more than half the pitch. It never went away!
With Scotland gaining the match points available for their first innings lead – after Ireland's horrible batting collapse – the home side had no incentive to complete the match and Trent Johnston, the Ireland captain, had no doubt that was the main reason why there was no play all weekend.
"There is a slope and obviously after two or three inches of rain falls there is the chance of it going underneath the covers. I heard that there was the offer of heaters or blowers yesterday morning to help dry the pitch but the groundsman said 'no' he didn't want to use them.
"There was no real effort by the groundstaff, in my opinion, to get that wicket playable today and even with the sun shining yeserday afternoon. The best day we had in Aberdeen and we were playing golf.
"It's just hugely disappointing to come off the Europeans and finish the season like this, knowing we had the chance to beat Scotland if we had played two more days' cricket."
The captain also vented his frustration at the umpires, Neil Baghs from Denmark and the Indonesian Shahul Hamed.
"These are the best two teams below Test level, it is the ICC's top competition for associates and we are not given a first class umpire," added Johnston. "That decision was wrong. Bad decisions were given, not all of them against us, and more experienced umpires would have been able to stand up to the pressure."
Having said all that, of course, it should have been Ireland sitting back in the pavilion without a care whether there would be more play. But in the two day's play they come up short, especially the back-up bowling.
"We're still learning and it is difficult to come back from playing with a white ball (in the international one-day games) to a red ball but as international cricketers we should be able to bowl in right areas and we didn't do that," added Johnston. "Their batsmen capitalised and we paid the price. But we know what we have to do. We have to beat UAE and hope they they can do a job on Scotland."
The Scottish bowling, unquestionably, was consistently better than Ireland's and that earned them the first innings lead.
Ireland coach Adrian Birrell admitted: "We batted well up front against very good bowling but after (William) Porterfield and (Niall) O'Brien were out they put us under pressure." Warwickshire's Dougie Brown finished with five wickets, captain Craig Wright took three, in spite of having a busted right thumb, John Blain bowled a hostile spell and Paul Hoffman did everything but take a wicket.
Scotland coach Peter Drinnen said all the right things after the match, although from such a strong position in the competition it was easy.
"In all sincerity we would liked to have seen a full four-day contest. It would have been an excellent match. But the cricket we have played in this game was very good." He was impressed by the Porterfield-O'Brien partnership on the Friday morning, adding: "The young batters played particularly well and at 128 for two it was tough for us. They ran beautifully and I hope our boys were watching."
All the good work was undone, however, in the next two hours and Ireland's only consolation is that they finished the season on a high by taking four Scotland wickets for 24. It looks as if it will not be enough to allow them to defend their Inter-Continental Cup trophy because by the time they face the UAE on February 9, Scotland could be out of sight.