Craig McDermott's Irish mavericks will keep Australia guessing

Veteran paceman has a mixed bag of bowling talent with which to take on his countrymen

When the full Ireland squad, including two county champions, assembled in Colombo last week, Craig McDermott held a bowling session and was astounded to see 12 members of the 15-man party turn up to turn their arms over.

This will have confirmed to McDermott, the firebrand quick who was one of the few Australians to emerge with credit from their Ashes misadventures of the Eighties, that he had signed up to coach a group of players with a reassuringly pure, almost quaint, enthusiasm.

Then he will have watched them run up to bowl and been left speechless all over again.

Ireland are a terrific group, and their feats over the past five years would make any end-of-decade highlights packages. Yesterday they defended 164 to beat Bangladesh in their last warm-up match for the World Twenty20, having hammered Zimbabwe last week. They continue to impress in spite of the fact that their bowling attack, with which McDermott was hired by the ICC to work for the course of this month's competition, is something of a basket case.

England Lions seamer Boyd Rankin, who played six games for title-winning Warwickshire alongside Ireland captain William Porterfield, will turn in his green jersey after this tournament, in the hope that concentrating on county cricket will allow him to fulfil his dream of playing for England. This is another Eoin Morgan situation, but one that hurts the Irish more: Rankin is 28 and has probably run out of time in England terms, and he is unique and irreplaceable.

Rankin's new-ball partner against Australia today and, fitness permitting, West Indies on Monday will be Trent Johnston, a 38-year-old veteran of the Sydney Grades who has already retired once and had major knee surgery last year.

Backing them up will be a miscellany of nearly men and talented bit-part players: Middlesex stalwart Tim Murtagh, who was granted Irish citizenship in January on account of his grandfather being a Dubliner; Kevin O'Brien, an astonishing striker of the ball; Alex Cusack, who hails from McDermott's native Brisbane and whose body lurches to the left at the moment of delivery.

McDermott is not working as closely with Ireland's spinners as their seamers in Sri Lanka, partly because he does not have to. George Dockrell, Somerset's mature and intelligent left-armer, is almost the finished article at 20. Paul Stirling's loopy, part-time off-spin has claimed celebrated scalps. Andrew White, who played a few games for Northamptonshire, knows his strengths and sticks to them.

So, you have to ask, what is McDermott, who four months ago was working with and winning praise for his effect on Ben Hilfenhaus and the latest production line of young Aussie quicks, supposed to do with this wacky band? He acknowledges the curiosities of the project but is aggressively polite about it too, arguing that the aforementioned bowlers are "technically very good.

"I think it's a pretty well-balanced attack and we have a lot of bowlers. We have a bowling net and we get 12 out of 15 coming along to bowl – that's something I'm certainly not used to," he said. "We've got two spinners, some medium-pacers and a couple of quicks, so it's pretty well-balanced and that gives the captain some choices during a game. If somebody isn't getting the ball to come out exactly right, there's somebody else who can take the slack.

"It is an interesting mix of players, and you are going to continue to get that while the set-up is the way it is. But it has come a long way in the last 15 or 20 years."

If they were to beat Australia today, it would set them up for a fourth passage beyond the first stage of a major tournament. "Yeah, their record probably hasn't been as good as they would have liked in the past couple of years in Twenty20," he says of Australia, again being polite. George Bailey's side are ranked one place above Ireland on the T20 ladder, in ninth. "But I'm sure they are working pretty hard on their game too, so I'm not too concerned about what they are doing. We'll leave their cricket to them and we'll play our cricket, and whoever plays better will come out the winner."

McDermott was typically Australian in that he saved his greatest feats for the Ashes. He played 17 of his 71 Tests against England and averaged 26.30, and he took 8 for 97 at the Waca in 1991. He was a good bowler and, married three times, he has overcome personal problems to establish himself as a good coach. Today the enemy is Australia.

"It's one thing to have the knowledge of our opponents and pass it on, but we've got to be sharp enough and good enough to be able to execute what we discuss," he said, playing down his espionage role. "That's our goal. We've got to be able to deal with what the likes of the Warners, the Husseys, the Watsons and those sorts of players throw at us."

McDermott could not have known what awaited him as Ireland bowling coach. With nine bowlers carrying out his instructions, Australia won't know what awaits them today.

 

Get Adobe Flash player

 



'We did not take T20 seriously'

Australia are finally coming to terms with the demands of Twenty20 cricket after failing to take the shortest form of the game seriously, their World Cup captain, George Bailey, said yesterday.

The four-times 50-overs World Cup champions' best performance in the T20 game has been reaching the final of the 2010 tournament against eventual winners England in the West Indies. They lost by seven wickets.

"My personal opinion is, I think, that it has taken a little while for Australia to take T20 seriously," said Bailey. "We have changed the team a lot. I think we are trying to get there."

News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
News
i100
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin