Ireland A fight back against Gloucestershire
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
IRELAND A will have to bat the entire final day to prevent a second successive defeat against county 2nd XI opposition but at least the bowlers regained some respectability last night in Bath.
After dismissing the Irish for 230, Gloucestershire surprised their visitors by electing not to enforce the follow-on, despite a first innings lead of 264. And Ireland grabbed the initiative by keeping the county in the field for all 35 overs of the final session, when everyone expected a declaration.
It was hard to fathom Gloucestershire’s tactics – only 23 runs were scored in the last eight overs of the day when, surely, it would have made sense to have half a dozen overs bowling at Ireland and getting a few wickets.
Instead, Phil Eaglestone made a double breakthrough in his first over, Graeme McCarter followed up with a wicket in his next and the spinners, Adam Coughlan and Andrew Balbirnie, then took control of the last 20 overs to claim five more wickets, including the three batsmen who scored 412 runs between them.
Captain Ed Young skied one to deep mid-off, Paul Muchall was caught at backward point and Christian Purchase was dismissed third ball, for 156 runs less than his whirlwind first innings effort, caught at long-off.
Gloucestershire still brought their sixes tally in this match to 27, which is 27 more than Ireland have managed so far. Resuming yesterday morning on 27 for three, captain James Shannon was caught behind in the 12th over and when the returning Chris Dougherty went the same way just seven overs later, Ireland were an embarrassing 85 for five, still 409 behind.
But John Anderson (who faced 169 balls) and Rory McCann (120) added an impressive 103 runs with both reaching half centuries, including nine and seven boundaries respectively. They were dismissed in the space of seven overs and the last three wickets could add only 30 to leave them staring at the prospect of an innings defeat. But Gloucestershire’s surprise decision to bat again gives the Ireland batsmen plenty to play for, today and for their future international prospects.
Scores: Gloucestershire 2nd XI 494-5 dec (E Young 172 not out, C Purchase 156 not out, P Muchall 84) and 146-8 (E Young 46; A Coughlan 4-38, P Eaglestone 2-25) Ireland A 230 (J Anderson 72, R McCann 54, J Shannon 34; P Muchall 3-37, M Purnell 3-50). Today 10.30am-5.30pm.