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Sunday 22 October 2017

Johnston plans to go out with a bang in tilt with Aussies

David Townsend

TRENT JOHNSTON is aiming to go out on a high if today's showpiece one-day international against Australia in Belfast proves to be his last hurrah on Irish soil.

The former Ireland captain will play on as long as his creaking 38-year-old body allows, but admits that the next big home game against England at the end of next summer seems a long way off.

"I'm very much aware that the Australian game could be my last in front of a big Irish crowd," Johnston said. "So, it would be nice to do something special -- and beating the best ODI team in the world would rank right up there.

"I don't know how a win would compare with beating Pakistan or England -- you'll have to ask me that after I've taken five wickets and hit the winning runs!"

A clash with Australia is always special for someone who grew up Down Under and played a handful of games for New South Wales before becoming the catalyst for Ireland's emergence on the world stage. He knows that Ireland should probably have beaten the then three-times world champions when the teams last met in a 50-overs clash in Dublin two years ago.

"I only lasted 10 overs of that game before breaking a thumb, but the lads bowled really well to restrict them to something like 230 and when we got to 80 for none in no time, we should have gone on and won it.

maturity

"I think at that stage we looked at the scoreboard and suddenly realised we were staring down the barrel of beating the best team in the world. With another couple of years of maturity, if we found ourselves in that position again, I'd back us to win every time."

Captain Michael Clarke and star all-rounder Shane Watson know Australia were lucky to escape that day and will prepare their near-full strength team for another battle in the grounds of Stormont Castle.

Andrew White and Max Sorensen are likely to miss out from Ireland's squad of 13 and, with Boyd Rankin injured, Johnston expects to be opening the bowling with Middle-sex seamer Tim Murtagh, who will be making his Ireland debut.

"Murts came into the squad as a replacement for John Mooney towards the end of the (World) T20 qualifiers in Dubai (in March) and fitted in with everyone straight away," Johnston said.

"He'll enjoy bowling at Stormont first thing -- if we win the toss. There's always a bit in the pitch for the seam bowlers and it'll be damp after all the rain this week.

"A few of the boys in our squad -- like Paul Stirling and Gary Wilson -- have been in good form with the bat over in England and I'm confident it'll be another close game."

Irish Independent

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