Fitness test before Joyce can take place in history

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The Independent Online

Ed Joyce will this morning hope to convince the England selectors that he has fully recovered from the food poisoning that prevented him from participating in yesterday's practice, so that he can make his international debut today against Ireland, the country of his birth. Joyce, the Dublin-born Middlesex middle-order batsman, woke up yesterday feeling ill and was sick twice on the flight from Southampton to Belfast.

Joyce is the finest cricketer Ireland have produced and he would be devastated to miss the biggest game of the country's history. His absence would deprive cricket of a unique occurrence - two brothers making their international debuts in the same match, but on opposing sides.

Dominic Joyce, Ed's younger brother, will open the batting for Ireland today but, as of yet, he has failed to win the county contract so many young Irish cricketers want. Ed and Dominic are not the only members of a cricket family to represent their country. Augustine Joyce, Ed's older brother, has played for Ireland, as have his two younger sisters, Isobelle and Cecilia.

It is believed Joyce, Ed that is, will open the batting for England if he passes a fitness test. It is a position the elegant left-hander has occupied rarely in his professional career. Joyce's first experience of opening in one-day cricket came on the England A tour of West Indies, when he volunteered to replace Alastair Cook, who was ferried from the Caribbean to India as a replacement for the injured Michael Vaughan. He has opened the batting for Middlesex in their last two C&G matches, scoring 95 against Ireland a fortnight ago.

Andrew Strauss, England's stand-in captain, is determined that his inexperienced side do not take Ireland lightly. "All games against lesser playing nations are potential banana skins," Strauss said.

"We have seen on tours that if you don't treat these games like proper games, you can come unstuck. We have a young inexperienced side and I fully expect them to be really up for it.

"We have approximately 21 games between now and the World Cup and we need to start showing more consistency and get some winning momentum going. If you start winning, you back yourself to win from anywhere. If we can get ourselves into that position, we have the players to beat any side in the world. This match and the games against Sri Lanka give us a great opportunity to build up some momentum."