World Cup places up for grabs as Balbirnie leads Irish Wolves
Andy Balbirnie will lead Ireland Wolves in a four-day unofficial Test against Bangladesh 'A' in Sylhet today at the start of a six-match tour that will see a mixture of experienced and younger players vying for inclusion in the squad for next year's World Cup qualifiers.
While the biggest Irish stars have been left at home, with the exception of Ed Joyce who has joined the party as batting coach, several well-known names have been given a chance to re-establish their reputations alongside new faces like Jack Tector.
On pitches expected to help spin, both in the 'Test' and five one-day games, the Wolves will look to wickets from Leinster left-armer George Dockrell, off-spinner Andy McBrine and leggie Jacob Mulder, while Malahide paceman Peter Chase may find both the heat and the surfaces unforgiving.
The next three weeks will also be important for wicketkeeper-cum-batsman Stuart Poynter and all-rounder Stuart Thompson, who need to show consistency to go with their undoubted talent.
The eight-team World Cup qualifying tournament will take place in Zimbabwe, probably in March, with Ireland competing against the West Indies, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, the Netherlands and three other associate sides, for one of the final two places on offer for the 2019 finals.