Cricket: Balbirnie aims to deliver first Test scalp for Irish 'brothers'
ANDY BALBIRNIE is looking to his band of "brothers" to deliver Ireland a first win over a Test-playing nation at U-19 level as the U-19 World Cup gets under way in New Zealand this weekend.
Balbirnie and his golden generation offer the best chance of beating one of cricket's big boys since a fresh-faced Eoin Morgan led the national side to within four runs of defeating England in 2006.
Ireland, who opened their tournament against South Africa in Group B last night, have been tipped to give some the sport's leading nations a stern test in the competition and Balbirnie knows that Australia are far from invincible in Saturday night's second 50-over match. The USA, whom they meet on Monday, are Ireland's final group opponents, with the top two nations progressing to the quarter-finals.
"Most of us here have been playing together since we were 13; we're like brothers. It's a very tight-knit, experienced group, and eight of us were at the last World Cup in Malaysia," Balbirnie said.
"We believe we have a real chance of getting that Test scalp. We can overturn anybody. The intensity has been there in our warm-up matches and our preparations couldn't have gone much better."
Balbirnie knows that his most important job could be to win the toss at one of cricket's most picturesque grounds that lies beneath The Remarkables, a range of mountains deep in 'Lord of the Rings' country.
"One-day international results show that it's best to bowl first, with the ball nipping around a bit early on," Balbirnie said.
Meanwhile, Ireland's hopes of winning the InterContinental Cup for a fourth successive time have suffered another blow, with Boyd Rankin having to pull out of next week's qualifying match against Afghanistan in Sri Lanka.
The Warwickshire fast bowler suffered a stress reaction while training and will have his right foot in plaster for up to five days, making him doubtful for next month's World Twenty20 qualifiers in Dubai. Ireland, already reeling from the retirement of Kyle McCallan and a long-term injury to fellow spinner Regan West, have called up Belfast-based Nigel Jones to replace Rankin.