Ireland A entertain but still lose heavily
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
IRELAND A got the margin of defeat below 300 runs and to their credit they provided wonderful entertainment on the last day of their three-day game against Sussex II in Blackstone.
Unfortunately, an unbalanced attack – with only three seamers and a sick slow left armer – posed minimal threat to a strong county batting line-up who, for 150 overs, spread over two innings, did much as they liked.
In the end, Sussex finished just three runs shy of 700 runs in the match with Johnny Thompson the pick of the bowlers and the unluckiest. Andrew Balbirnie is unlikely to be a front line slow bowler at the highest level but had to do the majority of the bowling in this match while it was a steep learning curve for debutant Alex O’Brien.
The other Ireland A new cap, Ryan Hunter, however, enjoyed himself yesterday and Ireland A set out in pursuit of their 'impossible' target of 547. He scored 72 from 64 balls with 12 hard-hit boundaries and he enjoyed batting with his captain, James Shannon who had hit five sixes and four fours in his 54, off just 32 balls when he was adjudged to have got an edge to the leg spinner. The batsman certainly did not agree but it ended the exciting third wicket stand of 91 off just 67 balls.
Balbirnie went early, as had Chris Dougherty and Ben Ackland, who has looked out of his depth , but Lee Nelson had no trouble finding the boundary, hitting 11 of them in his 46. Any hope Ireland had of batting through the day was ended by the loss of four wickets for 38 runs but the entertainment wasn’t finished as, no doubt under the influence of Jeremy Bray, the coach for this match, the batsmen still went for their shots.
Scott Campbell was given special permission to bat, after coming off his sickbed, and scored a bright and breezy 25 off 24 and Thompson, never one to miss out on a party, hit 46 off 34 balls with six fours and two sixes, one of them clearing the pavilion.
But Ireland A were always second best.