Ireland A had a facile victory over MCC today at Malahide. After restricting the visitors to 235 for 9 wickets off their 50 overs the Ireland A openers Andrew Balbirnie and Chris Dougherty toyed with the MCC bowlers and reached their target without being parted.

Balbirnie, who has been in supreme batting form for Middlesex 2nd eleven this season, finished unbeaten on 140 off just 110 balls which included 15 fours and three enormous sixes. Dougherty ended up on 82 from 91 deliveries with 9 fours but the rate of scoring from his batting partner was the only reason that he also did not go on to a century.

Although Dougherty batted well it was the innings of Balbirnie that really caught the eye. I watched him score a classy century for Leinster Lightning in the Newstalk Inter-pro at the start of the season at The Hills and he cannot have failed to yet again impress watching Ireland coach Phil Simmons with a another knock that oozed class. The top players always look as if they have more time than the other batsmen and Balbirnie demonstrated that ability again today.

He can score his runs all around the wicket and the only danger to him today would have been a loss of concentration. The reality is that the MCC side, comprised primarily of English Minor County players, just did not have the firepower to put any pressure on the batsmen but you can only play what is in front of you and Balbirnie and Dougherty were not about to pass up the opportunity that was presented to them.

It is little more than a decade ago that the full Ireland side were competing against, and not always beating, teams of the calibre that MCC had out today and it is a measure of the progress in Ireland cricket that the shadow team can now win so comprehensively. The only members of the Ireland A team who will have had a tinge of disappointment are those batsmen who didnít get the chance to also show what they could achieve.

At least the bowlers got that opportunity and Malahide man Peter Chase took advantage with figures of 5 for 39. Chase has been touted for a few years as the most promising new fast bowler for the future in Ireland cricket. It is easy to forget that he is not yet 21 and still developing his physique. He was one of the three Ireland players who spent part of the winter in Australia which included coaching from Aussie bowling coach Craig McDermott and today the benefits of that began to show.

Although his first spell was somewhat insipid with his pace not discernibly sharper than that of Stuart Thompson, Chase returned for a second spell that was largely responsible for ensuring that his batters did not face an over-taxing total. MCC were on 173 for 4 at the time but in the space of just 26 deliveries he dismissed five batsmen including hitting the stumps three times. His performance will have greatly enhanced his confidence and he will hope that he can force his way into the Ireland squad for the three matches against Sri Lanka later this month.

Certainly the pace and particularly the bounce that he generated in his latter spell provides genuine hope that he can deliver on his potential.

For MCC only skipper Cassar, who has played County cricket and former Ireland batsman Reinhardt Strydom with an opening stand of 85 put any real pressure on Ireland A and with their removal they had little left to offer. Cassar made 61 while Strydom reached 40. That 40 was later emulated by Naylor but Chaseís late demolition job snuffed out a challenging total.

Barry McCarthy and Eddie Richardson bowled decent spells while Andy McBrine made the initial breakthroughs but in the end it was Balbinie and Chaseís day.
IRELAND A V MCC

MCC 235-9 (M Cassar 61, R Strydom 40, S Naylor 40, P Chase 5-39, A McBrine 2-52) 50 OVERS
Ireland A 236-0 (A Balbirnie 140*, C Dougherty 82*) 33.1 OVERS
IRELAND A WON BY 10 WICKETS