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Ireland players denied a heroes' return to begin two-week quarantine after memorable victory


In quarantine: Andy Balbirnie

In quarantine: Andy Balbirnie


In quarantine: Andy Balbirnie

From the delirium of a first victory away to England, most of Ireland's cricketers now face the tedium of two weeks in self-isolation. All of Ireland's players based in the Republic of Ireland had to begin a mandatory two-week quarantine period when they returned home yesterday, even though the players from Northern Ireland do not need to quarantine.

So, while one of Ireland's centurions from their victory in the third one-day international, Paul Stirling, is free to resume seeing friends and family, the other, Andy Balbirnie, faces two weeks by himself in his Dublin flat.

"It is bizarre," said Balbirnie, Ireland's captain, who hit 113 at the Ageas Bowl in Ireland's successful chase of 329 on Tuesday.

"The guys from Northern Ireland can go straight up from Dublin and there's no quarantine there. We've been in the safest environment I could imagine; there was hand sanitiser in every corner - we didn't leave the hotel and were tested four times and all came back negative."

Of the 22-man squad who Ireland brought to England, 13 are based in the Republic, two live in England, with seven in Northern Ireland. Cricket Ireland had lobbied for players to be exempt from self-isolation rules when they returned from England, but were unsuccessful.

"Obviously we have to respect the rules and regulations," Balbirnie says. "Cricket Ireland went to the Government, but I don't think anything's come of that."

Unless rules are relaxed, players in the Republic of Ireland are due to be in quarantine until August 19, a day before the interprovincial competition begins.

After his 214-run stand with Stirling, Balbirnie could not bring himself to watch the final stages of the game, with Ireland needing 50 from 33 balls after he was dismissed.

"Those final 30 or 40 runs I actually just wasn't able to watch, I was in the toilet," he says. "When I have to rely on someone else, I struggle to deal with it. So the lads dragged me out to make sure I was involved."

With the fillip of a first ODI win away to a top-eight side, and 10 precious ODI Super League points on the long road to qualification for the 2023 World Cup, Balbirnie's endorsement of youth was vindicated, with Curtis Campher, Josh Little, Lorcan Tucker and Harry Tector impressing.

"We needed to get guys exposed to this level - and we've done that," Balbirnie says. "We've just got to make sure we nurture them well."

Former U-19 captain Tector was under intense pressure when the two centurions departed, but a cool head in only his third ODI innings, and the experience of Kevin O'Brien at the other end, saw the job done and the first World Cup Super League points on the board with a ball to spare.

Tector, one of three talented brothers who play for YMCA, has established himself in the middle order in T20 internationals, yet it was still a surprise when the Ireland selectors preferred him to former skipper William Porterfield for the ODI series against England in Southampton.

After falling for a duck on his debut and then getting out for 28 in the second game, it would have been easy for the 20-year-old to have misjudged his innings, either going too hard too early or using up precious deliveries as the run-rate nudged over nine.

As it was, Tector paced it to perfection, scoring 29 not out off 26 balls, in an unbeaten 50-run partnership for the fourth wicket in only 5.3 overs that ensured England skipper Eoin Morgan lost to his former team for the first time, despite making a century himself.

"I was actually pretty calm waiting to bat," Tector said.

"The lads were having a bit of banter in the changing room and I was just preparing myself to come in and score at whatever the required rate was.

"The four I hit off Rashid after 'Bal' got out took a lot of pressure off.

'It was probably my best shot of the innings and got the partnership with Kev off to a fast start. It also settled me a bit.

"Batting with Kev was a massive help because he was just so calm, and told me to keep backing my strong shots. Once I faced that 'no ball' in the last over from Saq Mahmood, I knew that with three off four needed we were probably going to get over the line."

Irish Independent