From One Extreme to Irish Cream!

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Whatever happens on the final day in Ireland’s inaugural Test match against Pakistan in Dublin, whether they go onto a famous victory or brave defeat, Kevin O’Brien, who is already written into Irish cricket folklore for his limited overs efforts, will go down in history as Ireland’s first ever Test centurion.

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For Andy Balbirnie however, there will be no such euphoria. Even if Ireland were to win at Malahide, Balbirnie’s joy at his team’s success will be tempered by the fact that he failed to register a run. He scored a dreaded pair on Test debut and though he took a catch, is unlikely to bowl. Balbirnie has a couple of ODI tons to his name, a reasonable First Class average and time, he is twentyseven-years-old but there are no guarantees that there will be further opportunities for the Dublin lad. Ireland aren’t exactly planning on playing a multitude of Test matches in the immediate future but we should know their fixtures in the next few days. I sincerely hope that Balbirnie gets another chance and can display his qualities.

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At the halfway stage of Ireland’s first Test, like Balbirnie, the ridiculously inexperienced Tyrone Kane had neither a run or a wicket.

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He’s currently hanging on and is, at the time of writing, an epic and selfless 8 not out from 67 deliveries. In contributing with the bat he’s increasing his chances of taking a maiden Test wicket. Even if he were to be dismissed first thing tomorrow morning and fail to take a wicket, he would at least have eight runs beside his name in the record books and at just twenty-three, time to come again.

Meanwhile, when Ireland were slipping to 7-4 on their Test bow, neglected wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter was racking up 170, a maiden County Championship century for Durham against Derbyshire. Poynter’s stats don’t exactly cry out “Test call-up” but if their status played even a small part in motivating Poynter then that can only be good for Irish cricket.

http://www.espncricinfo.com/ireland/content/player/308294.html

It remains to be seen but the Irish can dream!

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – New Zealand Run Out… of Ideas!

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When your bowlers need claim only fourteen wickets, you can’t help but think that Test match victories shouldn’t come quite so easily!

Post victory in the Shamrock state, Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes was recalled to the side for the hosting of New Zealand at Edgbaston. Woakes soon snaffled a wicket on his home ground, that of Kiwi opener Jeet Raval, caught behind for seven by debutant wicketkeeper Ben Foakes. That’d be bowled Woakes caught Foakes then! Brought into the side at the expense of Jonny Bairstow following the Yorkshireman’s shabby showing against Ireland in Malahide, Foakes duly put in an exemplary performance behind the timbers. Surrey head honcho Alec Stewart will be proud.

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Woakes made the most of his familiarity with the surroundings. With the new ball in hand whilst Stuart Broad sat this match out, Woakes claimed impressive figures of 3-28 as New Zealand capitulated to 143-9 in their first innings. Only a last wicket stand of forty between Neil Wagner and Trent Boult helped lift the visitors to a slightly more respectable 183 all out. New Zealand’s ineptitude with the bat on such a run-welcoming surface was soon highlighted by England’s willow wielders, not to mention the Kiwis’ own efforts come their second innings.

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Mark Stoneman compiled a career best 82 in an opening partnership of 186 with former Durham colleague Keaton Jennings but was rightly gutted on missing out on a maiden Test century. The Surrey lefty played an unnecessary and inexplicably expansive shot when three figures were peeping above the horizon whilst crying out “Come and get me Mark, please!”.

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Perennially in-form Jennings made no such mistake. His monumental 222 was a dominational knock that left him sitting pretty at the top of the Global Test League run charts whilst averaging an epic 83.29! #Bradmanesque was soon trending on social media. In the interest of fairness, Roston Chase, Dean Elgar and Ross Taylor have all clocked up higher GTL scores in the first four rounds of games.

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Dawid Malan registered his third hundred of the GTL, the most by any individual thus far in the inaugural edition of the competition. The Middlesex man fell for a Test best 155, his partnership of 194 with Adil Rashid was England’s competition high so far as was the team cumulative of 765-9. Regarding the bowling, Neil Wagner claimed absurd figures of 3-256!

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Following his reintegration to the Test side against Ireland, Adil Rashid continued his authoritative all-round performance and seemed destined for a maiden Test century. The Yorkshireman was controversially adjudged run out when on 79 however, though in truth it was an almightily risky run, even if the cameras suggested he’d made his ground.

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As was the case against Ireland, England saw their opposition produce a strong second innings batting display. It was only day three and the pitch was still a good one. How much more the Kiwis 410 could have been if it were not for five run outs in the innings, added to one in their first, will forever remain unknown. Had the tourists not conceded such village dismissals (No disrespect to village cricketers across the land!) and had they applied themselves better in their first innings then this could have been a far more evenly contested high scoring affair. Tim Southee’s run out for a career best 87, a dismissal that sealed the home side’s victory was disappointing, embarrassing, amateur, heart-breaking and inevitable all at the same time. Even the England fans wanted to see him reach a ton.

Moving on from my journalistic report and bringing to the fore my role as Team Manager and Chairman of Selectors of the England national side, we’d prefer to have to work harder for our wickets, even if we can claim to have applied pressure to bring them about. Our performance against spin, Jeetan Patel finished with figures of 0-98 on his home ground, was extremely encouraging. Pakistan in Lahore however will be a different kettle of the proverbial fish. We look forward to the challenge though. We currently sit joint top of the GTL table alongside South Africa and India. They too have won three matches and lost one. Entertaining ‘The Proteas’ at home will follow the trip to Pakistan.

The squad to travel to Pakistan will be named after careful consideration has been provided. Rotation of our pace bowlers continues to be of paramount importance as we look to sustain our intensity throughout the duration of the competition. Thoughts of adding additional spin options to the XI will be weighed up as will selecting spin-skilled batsmen. The players continue to be humbled by the support of the fans.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – Like a Rash!

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After our sensational victory over India at Lords, we traversed seas for the first time in the Global Test League and headed to Malahide to take on Ireland. Our hosts would push us hard in a high class day/night affair.

Again, we made one change to our side. Yorkshire spinner Adil Rashid was recalled at the expense of Chris Woakes. We were surprised to find the Irish terrain look so spin enticing and so included the leg-spin of Rashid to compliment Moeen Ali’s off-spin. It was Ireland’s spinners who would prosper first though. In our first innings, George Dockrell recorded cracking figures of 6-96 backed up by the part-time turn of Andy Balbirnie (2-27).

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In-form opening batsman Keaton Jennings was dropped behind on 92 and went onto register his maiden competition century (116). Up to this point KJ had made three fifties in four innings but this time (With a little help!) went onto post three figures. Our middle order was blown away by the left-arm hurricane Dockrell and only a counter-attacking knock of 74 from wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow lifted us to 313-9 before a cheeky declaration in the final session of the premier day’s play.

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James Anderson picked up 2-35 with the pink ball in Ireland’s first innings including the prize wicket of opener Ed Joyce. Joyce was peppered by back-to-back short balls before nicking behind when wafting outside off at a slower and fuller delivery. It was a well executed tactic by the head of England’s attack. Anderson’s ten wickets in three matches put him top of the wicket-taking charts for England.

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Adil Rashid returned to England colours with a point to prove and how he proved it. Many were surprised to see Rashid walk out to bat at number six but scores of 49 & 58 were vital to England’s cause. Rashid wore a heavy workload in Ireland’s first innings, bowling a total of 29.1 overs he returned figures of 3-88 followed by 3-54 in the second innings. Admittedly some of his wickets were courtesy of debatable umpiring decisions and it’s true that fortune favoured England throughout this match. Rashid built pressure though and deservedly won the ‘Player of the Match’ award. The contributions of Keaton Jennings (116 & 46) and Toby Roland-Jones (1 & 73, 1-58 & 2-62) in particular, the latter making a crucial double breakthrough in the hosts’ second innings, shouldn’t be underestimated however.

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Having made 99 against India at Lords, Moeen Ali defied the earthquaken like pitch and seemed set for immediate redemption in Malahide but fell to a poorly executed shot when on 98. A severe case of Michael Slateritis for the Worcestershire all-rounder!

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For England’s eighth wicket, Moeen put on 150 with Middlesex man Toby Roland-Jones in what turned out to be a vital second innings partnership. Disappointingly T R-J through his wicket away when on 73 and will surely rue a golden opportunity for a Test ton that went begging. His vital second innings wickets when Ireland were well set at 112-1 but slipped to 133-3 in their pursuit of what would have been a record breaking 520, combined with his batting contributions mean that Chris Woakes isn’t guaranteed an immediate recall to the side. As well as claiming key scalps at crucial moments in the match, that’s fifties in consecutive Tests for Roland-Jones.

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Gloveman Jonny Bairstow was good, bad and darn right ugly behind the stumps. In the first innings he dropped this sitter off the bowling of Roland-Jones. Dawid Malan couldn’t believe what he was seeing!

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Just when Roland-Jones thought his luck had changed after picking up a couple of wickets, remember he was robbed of some against India, Bairstow promptly dropped this dolly that ballooned into the air on the leg-side. Whether or not it was the pink ball, the poor light or just a lack of concentration from JB is unclear. His first innings knock of 74 was crucial to England’s success in this match but he was needlessly run out when seemingly destined for a century and his rather kamikaze second innings knock of 12 from four deliveries in England’s second innings wasn’t really what the team needed. Most crucially though, his butter fingered performance with the gloves mean that Ben Foakes will come into serious consideration ahead of the visit of New Zealand.

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In the end we won by 160 runs having declared both our innings. This was despite Paul Stirling’s stirling knock of 120 not out! Our second innings was a solid effort full of contributions throughout the order and we had enough runs on the board to not get too anxious when Ireland built some partnerships. The recalled Adil Rashid (6-142) led the way with the ball. We can’t deny that Ireland gifted us some silly run outs and the umpires were generous with some of their decisions. We missed a couple of run out chances and dropped easy catches too. No disrespect to Ireland but more experienced Test nations won’t be so generous. We did however improve dramatically with the bat against spin (Mark Stoneman aside) and witnessed not overly experienced bowlers claim vital scalps when required.

We currently sit atop the Global Test League but entertaining New Zealand at Birmingham won’t be easy.

Ashes Cricket (PS4): Global Test League – Malan of the Match!

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Following the disappointing defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe at Old Trafford in the opening round of Global Test League fixtures, it was essential that we upped our game against India at Lords and register our first championship points.

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Records tumbled on day one as our batsmen recovered from a precarious position of 12-2 to make hay against an insipid India attack. No less than six willow wielders passed fifty but it was Dawid Malan who stood tallest on his home ground. The Middlesex man reached his maiden Test hundred before eventually being dismissed for a grand 133. Having made scores of 8 and 32 at Old Trafford, Malan seized the opportunity of playing on familiar ground to cement his immediate future in England’s middle order.

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The hosts had been 198-6 when Moeen Ali joined Malan at the crease but the pair combined to construct a mammoth partnership of 176 to deflate the Indian players. Moeen was cruelly denied a Test hundred, courtesy of a fantastic slower ball from Jasprit Bumrah that trapped the Worcestershire man in front. It was a rare piece of intelligent and well executed bowling from the away side. Bumrah, for his batting as much as his bowling, was one of the few Indian players to walk away from this match with their reputation enhanced.

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By the end of first day, we’d been dismissed for a mighty 536 and still had time to bowl a few overs at the visiting batsmen. The opening over, bowled by James Anderson as the sun set over London, was a sublime display of swing bowling. Having seen their side total a record breaking opening day score, the home fans had already received their money’s worth but were treated to Anderson’s torrid torture of India’s top order. Swinging the ball like no one before him, Anderson was close to claiming another two LBWs in his first over on top of trapping the dumbstruck Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan would later fall to Anderson in the second innings, caught on the boundary in one of the most embarrassing displays of an international cricketer running scared ever seen!

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Registering scores of just five and three, Chris Woakes clearly had a disappointing match with the bat and the experimentation of him batting at number six may have to come to an end. The Warwickshire man made a solid contribution with the ball however, collecting match figures of 25-8-64-3 and easing the burden on messrs Broad and Anderson.

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Seamer Toby Roland-Jones, called into the side at the expense of spinner Liam Dawson, joined Middlesex colleague Malan in making a positive impression on his home ground. Having recored a maiden Test half-century (61) in England’s epic first innings, T R-J claimed three catches as India’s batsmen were suckered into the same trap time and time again. With his international career still in its infancy, the county veteran finished with match figures of 25.4-10-62-3. Like Woakes, Roland-Jones confirmed that England’s back-up brigade of pace bowlers are blessed with plenty of skill and wicket taking nous.

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Though we were keen to enforce the follow-on, a miscommunication (A bug!) with the officials resulted in us having to bat again. Provided the rapid nature of our first innings batting and as a result, the amount of time left in the match, we weren’t too concerned about having to do so. Of all the England players, only opening bat Mark Stoneman (7 & 8) will walk away from the match disappointed but fellow opener Keaton Jennings (73 & 51) made fifties in both innings. That’s three in four in the inaugural GTL for the new Lancashire recruit. Hampshire’s James Vince made an attacking 92 before Dawid Malan, not content with one Test century on his home ground, promptly made another. There are many great players never to have made the honours board at Lords but Malan etched his name twice in the space of a couple of days. He fell soon after as England presented the undeserving Hardik Pandya (3-55) with three cheap (And I mean very cheap!) wickets in one over, as thoughts turned towards a declaration. Despite there being ample time left in the match, it was felt unnecessary to have our bowlers exert energy whilst batting. There’s another twelve rounds of Test fixtures and the workload of the pace bowlers in particular must be managed accordingly.

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Few would have thought that James Vince would lead the way with the ball in India’s second innings but with captain Joe Root letting senior bowlers, the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad take it easy in the field, Vince followed up his batting exploits with figures of 2-40 from ten overs. Freakishly, India were dismissed for 208 in both innings. In truth, it may only have been England’s decision to rest senior bowlers second time around that allowed India to ascend from 98-8 and total that many.

This was a truly emphatic and utterly dominant display from England. The 455-run margin of victory was the sixth highest in the history of Test cricket. Our first innings total of 536 was the highest ever score reached on the opening day of a Test match and the second most runs scored on any day in Test history. There were contributions from throughout the side and standards have now been set extremely high. There’s excitement amongst the players as they seek to be the leading run-scorers or wicket-takers respectively in the Global Test League. Malan currently sits third on the overall batting charts and Anderson leads the way for England with the ball. That friendly competition is good for the team and the tournament as a whole. After a disappointing outing against Zimbabwe, it will be pleasing for captain Joe Root to have made 55 in the first innings but even more pleasing to see all those around him perform so productively.

Our next match sees us voyage overseas for the first time, not far though, just a short traverse of the Irish Sea to take on Ireland in Malahide. We’ll review conditions prior to confirming any amendments to the squad.

Don Bradman Cricket 17: Home Nations ODI Series

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In the first match of the series against Ireland in Malahide, ODI caps were presented to Daniel Bell-Drummond, Aneurin Donald, Sam Curran and Tom Curran.

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Jake Ball struck with the very first delivery of the match but our hosts went about laying a solid platform thanks in the main to Ed Joyce. Once we dismissed Joyce we ripped through the Irish middle order and had them well and truly on the ropes however an immensely frustrating 8th wicket partnership between Boyd Rankin (67 not out) and George Dockrell (57 not out) saw Ireland propel themselves to 294-7. Needing to score at nearly a run-a-ball, a number of our batsmen made starts but failed to convert them into a big score and we went down by a mammoth 120 runs.

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Having headed north to Scotland our batsmen displayed a welcome ability to battle through some probing periods of bowling and convert cameos into innings of substance.

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Ben Duckett in particular displayed a Test match temperament in making 63 from 88 deliveries before eventually falling to Con de Lange. De Lange would finish the innings with devil like figures of 6-66.

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Having risked wasting the efforts of Duckett, we were indebted to Liam Dawson who top scored with 71 not out batting at number nine.

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Surrey teenager Sam Curran impressed with figures of 2-47…

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… but it was Jake Ball (3-50) who led the way again as we held off the Scots to claim a 30-run victory and our first points of the series.

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After getting a first win under our belt we were confident of putting on a better showing against the Irish on home territory at Headingley. Our nemesis Boyd Rankin (64 not out) had other ideas however. For the second match in a row between the sides he was ably supported by George Dockrell to take Ireland past 300 despite the ever impressive Sam Curran’s 3-55. After Daniel Bell-Drummond (30) and Ben Duckett (28) put on 50 for the first wicket, Rankin (4-24) and Dockrell (5-31) sent our middle order packing in the blink of an eye. Aneurin Donald’s series continued to peter out, the young Welshman falling first ball, one of George Dockrell’s five victims.

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The sum of all parts added up to a 172-run mauling at the hands of our Irish enemies.

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Following another thrashing at the hands of the Irish it was felt necessary to make changes for the second match against Scotland at Trent Bridge. Moeen Ali, Aneurin Donald and Tom Curran were all dropped. Adil Rashid was also axed following a poor showing on his home ground. ODI Debuts were handed out to Middlesex duo Dawid Malan and Ollie Rayner whilst there were international recalls for Sam Billings and Chris Jordan. Replacing Moeen at number three, Malan hinted at international quality when striking a run-a-ball 20 and would later prove effective with the ball.

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German born off-spinner Ollie Rayner had almost immediate success, striking in the first over of his ODI career.

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The psychological scars from the Irish trauma were too much to bear though and after Daniel Bell-Drummond was run out for the second time in four innings and Jos Buttler threw away an impressive start we collapsed to a paltry 149 all out. That man Con de Lange leading the charge again with impressive figures of 4-14. Despite some tight bowling from part-time leg-spinner Dawid Malan (1-9) and Rayner’s debut wicket we went down by six wickets.

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A bottom of the table finish was not what we had expected at the start of the tournament but hopefully our young players will have benefited from some harsh lessons ahead of even sterner tests in the future.

Don Bradman Cricket 17: Ireland v England Day/Night Test Match

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With coaches Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace taking some time off after a couple of difficult tours to the sub-continent, I snatched at the chance to take charge of the England cricket team on a part-time basis. I was humbled to lead a Test side to Ireland and for England to be the opponents in our hosts’ first ever Test match, a one-off day/night affair at Malahide. I opted to rest Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad and James Anderson and presented Test caps to county stalwarts James Hildreth and Mark Footitt as well as Footitt’s Surrey teammate, South African born youngster Tom Curran. Following the difficult decision to remove Alastair Cook from the position of captain, Joe Root had the honour of leading the side for our nation’s first ever day/night Test match.

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Having been put into bat by Ireland skipper William Porterfield, we slumped to 36-4 before debutant James Hildreth went about rebuilding the innings. Unfortunately when the Somerset batsman was dismissed for a Ramprakashesque 27, we found ourselves in dire straits at 93-6!

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This isn’t quite how I had envisaged things at the end of day one. Just look at all those Ramprakashes! (That’s slang for 27). We were bowled out just before lunch with only a last wicket stand of 59 between numbers ten (Jake Ball, 27) and eleven (Debutant Mark Footitt, 35 not out), saving face for my troops. Ball and Footitt were actually smacking the ball to all parts and only when, as lunch approached, ‘they decided to bat properly’ did Ball get run out. On the plus side another debutant, Tom Curran, was swinging the ball like… well, a swing, to help make inroads into the Irish batting line-up.

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After a difficult night’s sleep in the team hotel, it was a relief when Jake Ball eventually dismissed Niall O’Brien for 89 early on the second morning. That wicket provided our players with great hope of limiting the first innings defecit…

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… unfortunately we then watched in horror and were powerless as Ireland’s number ten, ex-England Test cap Boyd Rankin (55) led the way in a partnership of 93 with Niall’s brother Kevin. When Ireland finally declared on 439-9 the younger O’Brien brother was left undefeated on 127.

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In our second innings, opening batsmen Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings constructed an attacking partnership as we attempted to eat into the first innings defecit. After racing to 47 without loss Hameed had his stumps rearranged on 26 and almost immediately after that Jennings was caught behind for 20 with both openers falling to our nemesis Rankin. Our middle-order batsmen then struggled to adapt to the pink ball coming at them under lights with Bouncing Boyd in particularly hostile form.

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When Ben Duckett, who seemed to have weathered the worst of the tempest was run out for 35, our hopes had all but faded…

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… but a counter-attacking innings of 46 off 28 deliveries from Adil Rashid gave us hope of avoiding an innings defeat and possibly taking the match into a third day.

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It wasn’t to be however as Ireland ran out comfortable winners by an innings and 37 runs. I haven’t heard from Andrew Strauss and fear that the offer of a full-time position may have been retracted!