IRELAND v AFGHANISTAN

by

Richard White - Freelance Writer

richardwhite400@hotmail.com

 

The Intercontinental Cup Final win by 122 runs against Afghanistan on December 13, 2013 demonstrated how Ireland have dominated Associate level cricket in the multi-day format since its inception in 2003. The final played at the ICC Cricket Academy in Dubai Sports City held special significance for several of the Irish team’s senior players.

Trent Johnston playing his 198th and final game for Ireland bowed out with a fourth win in this competition. He has been an integral part of the most successful period in Irish cricket captaining the team on 60 occasions and will now perform a dual role; taking charge of the woman’s team and as fast bowling coach at the recently formed National Academy.

Andrew White who equalled Kyle McCallan’s record 226 appearances in this game joined Johnston as a four time winner and remains Ireland’s leading Intercontinental Cup run scorer with 1552 runs.
 

Man of the Match John Mooney produced two five wicket hauls for match figures of 10 for 81 and showed that despite Johnston’s retirement competition will remain fierce in the bowling department.

Coach Phil Simmons who has extended his contract by two years until 2015 has now led the team to ten trophies since his tenure began in 2007, and to cap a magnificent year for Ireland Kevin O’Brien was named 2013 ICC Associate player of the Year at the conclusion of the match.
 

The debate whether Ireland should step up to test status will continue, as they enter 2014 ready to compete in the West Indies domestic 50 over competition based in Phil Simmons’ birthplace of Trinidad and Tobago. This will be followed by their fourth World T20 appearance in Bangladesh. Continued success on the world stage, a developing interprovincial domestic tournament and future exposure against top level competition in multi day cricket can only press the case for Cricket Ireland being elevated beyond Associate level.

The remarkable rise of opponents Afghanistan despite their challenging domestic situation has not prevented them becoming Ireland’s closest competitor. Runners up in all three competitions they will continue to improve and have a bright future with Dawlat Zadran, Mohammed Nabi and Rahmat Shah the chief contributors in the fiercely fought Intercontinental Final. Afghanistan will now target removing Ireland from their perch as undisputed champions of Associate cricket and attempt to take some high profile scalps on the world stage. A last over T20 defeat to Pakistan in Sharjah prior to the Dubai final suggests this may not be too far away.

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