Saturday 17 February 2018

Cricket: Murtagh set for debut as O'Brien returns

Gerard Hughes

NIALL O'BRIEN is back in the Ireland squad for this month's RSA Challenge match against Australia in Belfast and is likely to play alongside debutant fast bowler Tim Murtagh.

O'Brien was dropped by coach Phil Simmons earlier this year when he opted for a contract in the Bangladesh T20 competition ahead of Ireland's World T20 qualifying matches in the United Arab Emirates.

Simmons is not known for a forgiving nature and yesterday he was offering the Northamptonshire wicketkeeper no guarantees of a place in the XI for the summer's showpiece.

"There's no doubt Niall is among the best 14 players that Ireland have," Simmons said. "But Gary Wilson did superbly behind the stumps in the UAE, and he's going to have to work hard and be at his best to regain the gloves."

Star paceman Boyd Rankin is out with a foot injury, so Ireland have turned to Middlesex seamer Murtagh. The 30-year-old, a former England U-19 player, was a late addition to the Ireland squad that won the World T20 qualifiers in March, but he has yet to play for his father's country.

"Tim's been bowling superbly for Middlesex so that will soften the blow of losing Boyd," Simmons added.

Elsewhere, the final day of the third Test between England and West Indies was rained off yesterday resulting in a draw.

IRELAND SQUAD -- W Porterfield (capt, Warwickshire), A Cusack (Clontarf), G Dockrell (Somerset), T Johnston (YMCA), E Joyce (Sussex), J Mooney (North County), T Murtagh (Middlesex), K O'Brien (Railway Union/Somerset), N O'Brien (Northants), M Sorensen (The Hills), P Stirling (Middlesex), A White (Instonians), G Wilson (Surrey).

Irish Independent

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