Cricket: Irish find the task beyond them

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The Independent Online
Ireland 160-9; Leicestershire 164-1

Leicestershire win by 9 wickets

NOT really a great day for the Irish. Their first venture into the realms of the Benson and Hedges Cup foundered after a deceptively promising start at Grace Road yesterday and a nine-wicket defeat by Leicestershire reflected a performance which left them with very few plus marks.

Many teams, though, would have fared little better given their circumstances. With negligible pre-season practice because of the weather, most of the Irish had not held a bat since the ICC Trophy in February and three front-line bowlers, having used up their holidays to play in Kenya, were absent here.

Their enthusiastic out cricket and the tardy efforts of four slow bowlers could not defend a modest 160. So it was very much Leicestershire's day, made complete by the appearance of Ray Illingworth and another distinguished old boy in Graham McKenzie, while Phil Simmons, the newest face of all, chipped in in all departments.

Illingworth was looking for people who can bowl, in this case Leicestershire's Anglo- Australian Alan Mullally and David Millns, whose former employers, the National Coal Board, once provided England with a regular supply of new- ball operators.

Illingworth would not have expected too many pyrotechnics on a typically slow Leicester pitch; even so Mullally, having built himself up while wintering Down Under, still got the odd ball to thwack into the keeper's gloves at chest height, while an understandably tentative Millns, after two injury-fraught seasons, eased his way through.

Ireland still reached a point, at 91 for 2, from which they would have expected to make something substantial to bowl at. Stephen Warke's crisp driving was the focal point at this stage, but by the time Simmons caught him off a steepling top edge, Ireland were in the throes of losing their last eight wickets for only 69 runs.

Simmons then made a highly disciplined half-century from 95 balls in which his bat was passed perhaps once.