Cricket: Supporters left to count the cost of Stormont wash-out
IRELAND came within five minutes of having to refund over £250,000 (€300,000) when the RSA 50-over Challenge match against Australia was rained off in Belfast on Saturday after only 10.4 overs.
A near sell-out crowd of 5,000 at Stormont would have been due their ticket money back if fewer than 10 overs had been bowled and insurance would only have covered part of a massive loss for Cricket Ireland.
After 10 overs there was no provision for even a partial refund, although fans with valid tickets will be allowed free entry into any of the five Ireland internationals in July.
Watching one of two World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan at Clontarf, or a T20 clash with Bangladesh in Belfast, will be little consolation for supporters hoping to see Ireland tested by the world's best one-day team.
The hour's play that was possible -- after heroic work overnight by groundsman Phil McCormick and his team -- did at least confirm that Australia are now taking Ireland seriously. Coach Mickey Arthur admitted that his team are short of batting practice ahead of a five-match series in England, but, in a nod to the threat of Ireland, they chose to bowl instead after winning the toss.
"Yes, we would have liked a bat, but first and foremost we had a game of cricket to win," Arthur said. Only a handful of years ago, Australia would have batted and won without a second thought.
The decision to bowl was vindicated when speedster Brett Lee knocked back William Porterfield's off-stump with the first ball of the Ireland innings and repeated the trick two balls later to send Ed Joyce on his way.
A stunning first over of 90mph thunderbolts could not have been matched by the Ireland attack, but debutant Tim Murtagh, who didn't get on, would have relished the bowler-friendly conditions.
Local lad Paul Stirling showed his class and gave the crowd something to cheer with four sweetly struck boundaries before he was caught at slip for 24 from 27 balls.
An over later the rains returned with Ireland 36-3.