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Will Porterfield will savour the Long Room moment of Irish fulfilment

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William Porterfield has said that playing Test cricket at Lord’s will be “right up there, if not the pinnacle”, of Ireland’s journey to the top table of international cricket.

While Ireland have faced England at Lord’s in a one-off ODI in 2017, their captain said on the eve of their third Test appearance that the opportunity to walk through the Long Room and down the famous steps from the Lord’s pavilion on Wednesday morning would be a “pretty special moment”.

“We have got quite a few World Cups under our belt, little things like that,” Porterfield said. “They have been pretty big occasions, but getting to Test cricket and then having the opportunity to play here at the home of cricket is a pretty special thing.

“We had a taste of it a couple of years ago with the one-dayer here, coming down through the Long Room and everything else and the things you see that other sides get to do in terms of Test cricket, so I’m sure that’s a bit of a taster of what it’s going to be like come tomorrow morning when we walk down through – should that be the first two lads out there or walking down as an eleven.”

This match will be the second men’s Test to be contested over four days following the ICC’s approval of a trial of the format in October 2017. South Africa’s victory over Zimbabwe at Port Elizabeth in 2017 is the only match since to be played under such conditions since the 1970s. Porterfield played down suggestions that the shortened match would diminish the occasion in any way.

“If you look across world cricket now, a lot of focus, a lot of crowds and everything else – probably barring England, Australia and India to a fair extent where you get crowds when those three play against each other, it’s a good initiative.

“You’re probably missing out on less than two sessions throughout the five days. You are still making up time with 98 overs. I think that the pace at which some Test matches are played at these days anyway, it might be a good thing for the game as well.”

Porterfield declared that all 14 members of his squad were in contention for a place in the starting eleven on Wednesday, although a subsequent back spasm for James McCollum may have changed that prognosis slightly. Either way, four of the squad – Mark Adair, Simi Singh, Lorcan Tucker and Craig Young – yet to make their Test debuts. While Porterfield admitted there would be some nerves for the possible debutants, he said it was perfectly fine for there to be so.

“They are young kids. They might not have played in front of 25,000 before or whatever it is. You take in different factors of the game of cricket. Once they get out there and get over the first five or ten minutes, they will get into the contest of bat and ball, but they could be lying if they don’t acknowledge there will be a few nerves knocking around.”

England will be making a quick transition between the white-ball and red-ball formats, ramping up towards the Ashes after a long World Cup campaign, but Ireland themselves haven’t had much time in whites this summer. The visitors have contested limited overs series against Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and West Indies on the international stage, while on the domestic scene their first-class competition, the Inter-Provincial Trophy, consists of only six matches a season, a number that Porterfield is keen to see increased.

“There’s a lot of county cricket, four-day, first-class experience within the side. We’ve got a lot to draw on. In an ideal scenario, we’d be at the stage back home where we’ve got 10 or 12 first-class games throughout the summer as well as various other fixtures. We’ve got to beef up our domestic programme, especially having missed out on county cricket, both white-ball and red-ball.”

ALSO READ: From World Cup magic to four-day Tests

Two names in the Ireland squad who do have experience at the home of cricket are Paul Stirling and Tim Murtagh, who have plied their trade on the county scene for Middlesex.

“Having both of those lads who have played a lot of cricket is good for the lads just to go and have a chat to and sit down and talk about it if there’s anything they feel they want to focus on with regards the ground, the slope or anything really.”

Porterfield himself has a history with the venue, having been part of the MCC Young Cricketers in his formative years between 2003 and 2006, and he reflected on his time as part of the programme, admitting he’d never have thought he would be back here playing Test cricket.

“To be honest, probably not,” said Porterfield. “There are quite a few lads on the actual staff who were groundsmen at the time. It’s been slightly different catching up with everyone and being the other side of it. It’s still pretty special. We used to have to dish out the programmes in the boxes and stuff every morning, so little bits and pieces that you have to do. It’s going to be slightly different being on this side of the fence.”

It has been a fine week for Irish sport, with Shane Lowry claiming his first major golf title this past weekend at Royal Portrush. While Ireland come into this Test as clear underdogs, their captain insists they’re in it to win it.

“It’s Test match cricket for a reason – it’s tough. But it’s eleven guys against eleven guys, it’s bat against ball. You take names, reputation, everything out of it. You’ve just got to take each delivery as it comes, no matter which way it goes.”

Would it be the greatest moment in Irish sport if they were to come out victorious?

“I wouldn’t say that if we win this Test match it would be the greatest thing that’s ever been achieved in Irish sport. But as far as cricket goes, it will be.”



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Gary Kirsten, Matthew Mott unveiled as Cardiff Hundred coaches

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The ECB has confirmed two more coaching appointments for The Hundred, with Gary Kirsten and Matthew Mott taking charge of the Cardiff-based men’s and women’s teams respectively.

Kirsten, the former South Africa opener, coached India to World Cup victory in 2011 and then oversaw South Africa’s rise to the No. 1 Test ranking. He has had extensive experience in the world of franchise T20, working with Bangalore Royal Challengers in the IPL and Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash.

“To be involved in English and Welsh cricket from a coaching perspective is something that I have never done,” Kirsten said. “It’s great to be given that opportunity and to come to Cardiff.

“This is a new format that I am sure will grow and grow. The real win is that it will grab the attention of families and expose the game of cricket to as many environments and communities as possible.”

Mott knows Cardiff well from his time in charge of Glamorgan between 2011 and 2013. He has previously coached in the Sheffield Shield, and took charge of the Australia women’s team in 2015, leading them to the title at last year’s T20 World Cup, and overseeing their successful recent defence of the Ashes in the UK.

“Cardiff is a special place for me and my family and that was a big part in my decision to return,” Mott said.

“I’ve got no doubt The Hundred will be a success for the women’s game. I’ve got a young son who is a Sydney Sixers fan and he doesn’t see gender – he just sees the team. The Hundred will provide that sort of platform in England and Wales and I can’t speak highly enough of what that can mean for the game.”



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Blast soars towards 1 million mark, and Ackermann’s surprise spin success

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The Blast has enjoyed a considerable uplift from England’s World Cup-winning campaign with the competition poised to reach 1 million spectators for the first time (David Hopps writes).

Hopes that the 1 million mark could be breached have been dashed before, but with nearly 900,000 sales achieved heading into last weekend’s games, it appears that only a continuation of recent bad weather could stop the target being reached.

With the ECB’s emphasis increasingly turning to the launch of The Hundred in 2020, there were fears that the Blast could suffer as a result – and until England won the World Cup for the first time in mid-July the tournament had been matching, but not exceeding, comparable sales in 2018. All that has changed, leaving total ground sales now 14% ahead of the same time last year.

London remains the main engine of Blast ticket sales with Surrey and Middlesex responsible for more than 20% of purchases. But the attraction of the Blast is growing in Hove, where Sussex, who went into the weekend games top of South Group, are packing them in with comparable success to two other non-Test grounds, Somerset and Essex.

Lancashire, who head the table in the North, are also enjoying their most successful Blast season ever as they have become the best-attended county outside London.

***

Colin Ackermann could be forgiven a slightly bemused expression as he claimed the most successful global analysis in Twenty20 history.

Ackermann, appointed Leicestershire’s Blast captain this season, exploited rare turn in the pitch at Grace Road to return 7 for 18 from his four overs of offspin, figures made all the more astounding for the fact he is primarily a batsman.

Searching for an explanation for his success, he offered the thought that he had worked hard on his bowling over the English winter, which he spent playing for Warriors in his native South Africa, and had taken full advantage of the advice of former Test offspinner Simon Harmer, a team-mate at Warriors.

That improvement was signalled when he picked up a maiden five-wicket return in first-class cricket in Leicestershire’s first Championship match of this season, a win against Sussex at Hove.

But it’s fair to say that Warriors did not recognise they might be on to a good thing. Search his record in all competitions between October and March for the Warriors between October 2018 and March 2019 and there is not a wicket in sight.

***

Birmingham Bears swooped quickly to sign Chris Green to replace the injured Ashton Agar, with Paul Farbrace telling Sky he had been working night and day to find a last-minute replacement (Matt Roller writes).

Green is a traditionalist’s worst nightmare of a cricketer. At 25, he is yet to make his first-class debut, though counts Lahore Qalandars, Guyana Amazon Warriors, and Toronto Nationals among his clubs.

And he took the freelance lifestyle to the next level last week. After losing the Global T20 eliminator to Winnipeg Hawks on Thursday afternoon in controversial circumstances – the game was called off early due to bad light, and Green’s side lost on DLS – he got a lift to the airport to get on the 11.19pm flight from Toronto to Heathrow.

That meant he arrived at 11.05am in the UK, and drove up to Birmingham just in time to meet his new team-mates and have a quick warm-up before Friday night’s game against Nottinghamshire, which started around 18 hours after his previous game – on a different continent, remember – had finished.

After seven games for Birmingham, Green will fly straight to the Caribbean Premier League to make his Guyana return. In a blow for fans of nominative determination, his carbon footprint is racking up.

***

On the subject of Birmingham, it was unthinkable last year that Ed Pollock – then a world-record holder for his pinch-hitting exploits – would be kept out of the team due to anything other than injury, but he found himself dropped four games into the Blast after a slow start to the competition.

While his side was capitulating against Ackermann, Pollock was sat at home after hitting a 39-ball 100 for Warwickshire’s 2nd XI against Durham, and would have been forgiven for wondering why he had been omitted.

His situation demonstrates the difficulties of the role he was given – to score at a 200 strike rate from the word go. It is one that comes with a high floor and a low ceiling, and one which requires a team which will stick with you during the rough times. But as long as cricketing orthodoxy – which comes down hard on those who get out playing attacking shots – prevails ahead of new-age T20 thinking, the Pollocks of the world will be up against it.

***

Sussex are expected to be without Delray Rawlins for four of their remaining games after the explosive middle-order batsman was picked in Bermuda’s squad for the ICC Americas T20 World Cup Qualifier.

While the club is yet to comment publicly, the Bermudian Royal Gazette reported that after much wrangling and negotiation, the national team have secured Rawlins’ service for the tournament.

Rawlins’ opportunities with the bat have been limited this season – largely due to Sussex’s imposing top order facing so many balls between them – but he is striking at 160.97, and hit a vital 35 not out off 17 balls to see off Gloucestershire at Bristol: he may yet be a big miss.

***

Any disappointment Kent officials may have felt after their mauling by Somerset’s Tom Banton on Saturday evening will fade rapidly should their county qualify for Finals Day on September 21 (Paul Edwards writes).

The likelihood of that happening has been increased by the return to fitness of skipper Sam Billings, who dislocated his shoulder 80 minutes into his first appearance for his team in April but played a full part in Saturday’s game, albeit he will not be keeping wicket this season.

Many of Kent’s performances have already mocked the predictions made about the county in March but the addition of Billings’ clean hitting to a batting line-up which already includes Mohammad Nabi and Alex Blake increases Kent’s chances of making the last eight and even securing a home semi-final.

“Sam has come back quicker than we thought he would and he’s worked very hard to get himself in the frame,” the Kent coach, Matt Walker, said. “We’re bringing back a very fine international T20 cricketer but also one of the best one-day captains in the country. It is almost like signing an overseas player.

“We’ve coped very well to win six games without him but his return gives a real lift to the dressing room.”



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‘Keep wearing him down’ – Justin Langer’s plan for Jofra Archer

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Amid his usual thoughts and theories about Australia’s next assignment at Lord’s, Justin Langer had a fairly simple one for England’s high-profile reinforcement: Hello Jofra Archer, welcome to the meat grinder of Test cricket.

There is something relentless about the way Australia have planned their Ashes blueprint, having brought with them the deepest battery of fast bowlers ever to set foot on these shores, committed to batting time in the middle, and bowling to lines and plans that emphasise cutting down the scoring and boundary rates as much as searching for wickets.

Enormous hype has been attached to the entry of Archer into the series for England, perhaps rightly so given his outsized talents and easy speed off an ambling run up, allied to a line from close to the stumps. But the challenge for Archer, as Langer emphasised, would be to back up that pace and quality in spell after spell, having not payed a single first-class match this year.

“It’s easy to be good at the front end and that’s what I said after Edgbaston, we’re not here to win the Edgbaston Test, we’re here to win the Ashes”

Justin Langer

Archer’s only red-ball game since last summer was for Sussex’s second XI, in which he claimed six cheap wickets and showcased the skills that have made him a near automatic selection for England since he qualified – he took eight wickets against Middlesex last year in his only first-class fixture at Lord’s to date. Archer’s pace will provide a point of difference against Steven Smith‘s formidable reserves of concentration and co-ordination, but as Langer pointed out, it will also be asking a lot of someone new to Test cricket to dominate right away.

“I’m really curious about how Archer is going to go. He’s played one red-ball game in 11 months. He’s a very skilled bowler and a great athlete. But Test cricket is very different to white-ball cricket,” Langer said. “Like we’ve talked about a long time, we’ve got to keep wearing him down, and get him back into his second or third and fourth spells. Just curious how he’s going to go, like you are with all fast bowlers.

“The strategy for England the way they play, is we have to be very disciplined. I think going back to 2004 in India, we hadn’t beaten for years, Gilly [Adam Gilchrist] was the captain, our strategy was so disciplined. You remember that series, and that was the difference in the end. Kasper [Michael Kasprowicz], [Jason] Gillespie and [Glenn} McGrath and they were so disciplined. I just think we haven’t won here for 20 years, and that’s a good strategy you can learn from the past. That strategy is going to be important as well.

“We’ve got to be as good at the back end as we are at the front. It’s easy to be good at the front end and that’s what I said after Edgbaston, we’re not here to win the Edgbaston Test, we’re here to win the Ashes. We have got to make sure we manage it and plan it well so we are as good in the fifth Test as we are in the second Test.”

Smith, David Warner and captain Tim Paine joined the bowlers for an optional net session on Sunday, as all attempted to groove their games. Langer said that while Smith and Warner continued to face a considerable amount of unwanted attention, the key to their success in the remainder of the series was to turn up for Lord’s with as much hunger and focus as at Edgbaston.

“He slept the last few days, which was good,” Langer said of Smith. “Dave Warner didn’t have a big first Test but he had a huge World Cup and IPL, so he is getting his energy back as well. So when those two are clear and have energy, it’s obviously a big advantage for us.

“They’re still copping a bit. I thought it’s what we expected since we have been here. The boys are handling it well. Davey’s humour at Edgbaston was nice. He’s handling it as well as anyone. Steve Smith came in and showed with his batting how he’s handling it. I keep saying this: There’s nothing you can do about that, just keep smiling and keep concentrating on what you’ve got to concentrate on and it is what it is.

“We talk about humility as one of our values. Like I keep going back, we did not come here to win the Edgbaston Test, we’ve not come here to get a hundred at Lord’s. We’ve come here to win the Ashes, to be the leading run-scorer in the Ashes, and if you do that it helps us win the Ashes; to be the leading wicket-taker in the whole Ashes and not just have a good Test. Everyone’s got to contribute. That’s why we are deliberately recognising that, ‘ok we won the first Test match that’s great, but now we’ve got to win the second Test’. So all our efforts will go into that.”

Langer did not venture to Worcester for Australia’s tour match, instead spending time in London and regathering his many thoughts. He noted that Cameron Bancroft had dropped a couple of catches in the game, and said he had planned to spend time with the junior opening batsman to help him re-set his goals after having made it back from the Newlands scandal exile into the Test team.

“He dropped a couple of catches, he is probably just trying a bit hard at the moment,” Langer said. “It was one of the challenges for James Pattinson actually, he set himself to play back in the Australian team, he set himself to play Ashes cricket. He’s ticked both of them off and now he’s going to have to re-set his goals, and a lot of young people don’t do that well.

“They go ‘I’ve done it now’ and they forget to re-set. I’ve spoken to Patto about it and I’ll say the same thing to Cameron Bancroft. He’s come back in and now he’s trying too hard, he’s achieved that goal, he thought it might have taken a lot longer, He just has to re-set his goals, clear his mind and just relax a bit, he’ll be fine.”

Some guidance could also be taken from Langer’s own experience as a young batsman at Lord’s playing the first of his many seasons as an overseas player in 1998. In his first county match at the home of cricket, Langer fell cheaply in the first innings as he came to grips with the Lord’s slope. “The very first time I played here, Somerset versus Middlesex, I think Andy Caddick [Kevin Shine] got me out with one that definitely came back in to me (off the slope), he was bowling from the Media Centre End. I’d heard about it, but until you actually get out there and feel it, by the end of it you realise there was a slope. But it’s that little wake-up call and you adapt to it. Hopefully our guys will do that.”

How quickly did Langer adapt? In the second innings, he scored an unbeaten 233, duly described by the late Peter Roebuck: “Langer’s footwork was precise, his fitness impressive, his judgment unwavering and his placements superb during 533 minutes at the crease. He was a man in harmony with his surroundings. It was a most compelling contribution.”



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