Sunday 21 October 2018

Ford's conservative approach an attempt to bridge gap in class

Ireland coach Graham Ford. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland coach Graham Ford. Photo: Sportsfile

David Townsend

After the fanfare of Ireland playing a first Test match has faded away, a cold reality is likely to set in at Malahide this weekend - be it with the Pakistan pace attack splattering stumps or the tourists' batsmen piling on the runs.

Captain William Porterfield has spoken boldly about being good enough to beat the visitors and Ireland have a great record in four-day games, but the step up in class is massive: the previous Test new boys Bangladesh took five years and 35 games to record their first win.

The boys in green-trim sweaters are almost certain to be successful sooner, if only because they will regularly play Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, but they will want to prove they cannot only take the field with the bigger boys of world cricket but start beating some of them over the five-day distance.

To do that, coach Graham Ford needs a method, or a brand of cricket, that plays to the strengths of his team and the South African gave a hint of his plans when Barry McCarthy, an attacking but expensive bowler, was omitted in favour of more accurate seamers.

"Pakistan play with flair as a group of cricketers, and if we are not disciplined they could take the game away from us pretty quickly," Ford said, knowing that at this level it is often as effective to bore out a batsman than bowl him out.

"We have Boyd (Rankin) who is an out-and-out strike bowler but the other seamers give us control.

"It's important we stay in the contest and if they want to score runs they have to score from difficult areas and hopefully not from easy release balls."

Ford might have given Aussie-born Nathan Smith his first game of any sort for Ireland but the tall paceman, who plays in Belfast, has withdrawn with a side strain so Merrion medium-pacer Tyrone Kane is pencilled in as first change after Rankin and Tim Murtagh.

There was great excitement when Phil Frost revealed a vivid green pitch earlier in the week but the former Taunton groundsman is known for his true surfaces and 39-year-old Ed Joyce should have the perfect stage in what could be the only Test for Ireland's greatest batsman.

Most of the his top-order colleagues also have experience of occupying the crease in county cricket and all have made big scores in Intercontinental Cup matches, so any failure will likely be down to nerves and the pressure of the occasion in front of a 6,000-strong crowd.

Porterfield, bursting with pride to be leading his team into this first Test after 10 years as skipper, believes anything is possible.

"It will be difficult for Pakistan to come here in these conditions and with our attack, we can put them under pressure," he said.

"Can we win? If we go out there and do the simple things well there's no reason why we can't beat them and make history. That's the challenge for us."

Ireland (from) - William Porterfield (Formby) cpt, Andrew Balbirnie (Pembroke), Ed Joyce (Merrion), Tyrone Kane (Merrion), Andrew McBrine (Donemana), Tim Murtagh (Middlesex), Kevin O'Brien (Railway Union), Niall O'Brien (Nantwich), Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire), James Shannon (Instonians), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Stuart Thompson (Eglinton), Gary Wilson (Derbyshire), Craig Young (Bready).

  • Ireland v Pakistan, live, Sky Sports, 11.0

Irish Independent

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