Heinrich Malan sees ‘opportunity’ for Ireland to match England’s fire with fire

By Sports Desk May 30, 2023

Ireland coach Heinrich Malan said his side will look to entertain when they take on England on day one of the Test at Lord’s on Thursday.

The team spent March and April touring south Asia with games against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka ahead of their first Test meeting with England since 2019.

England’s aggressive approach continues to win acclaim but Malan pointed out that with much of his side having played the bulk of their careers in one-day cricket, they were well set up to provide a watchable spectacle across their four days in London.

“Look, we know it will be challenging,” said Malan. “But within that challenge it will create opportunity too, and I guess for us we’re looking at the opportunity side of things.

“If they play the way they play and we can execute some of the plans that we have in place, hopefully we can execute that and that will leave us there for an exciting match.

“If you look at the way we’ve played white-ball cricket, we’ve (entertained). We’ve drawn some cards, we’ve beaten one or two of the top-tier teams in the way that we’ve gone about our white-ball business.

“To be fair, a lot of our players, their fall-back is white-ball as an understudy of how they play so a lot of their natural instinct is geared towards white-ball cricket which is all about entertainment.”

Ireland were admitted as full members of the International Cricket Council in 2017 and are currently ranked 12th of the 12 Test-playing nations.

They have lost all six Tests they have played since their first against Pakistan in 2018 but have fared better as a one-day side, registering 75 wins in 188 games since 2006.

They will be England’s final opponents before the Ashes begins at Edgbaston in June and Brendon McCullum’s players will be out to impress their coach in order to secure a place in the side.

“It’s another great opportunity for us to play some red-ball cricket, something that our players have longed for over the last couple of years, and get the opportunity at the home of cricket is obviously a special week for us,” said Malan.

“We know that we’re at the start of our red-ball journey as a country and very much looking forward to building on some of those building blocks we put in place over the last couple of weeks on the sub-continent.

“When you prepare for any game of cricket it’s what you prepare for, to go out there and try and win and then play accordingly.

“Will it be challenging? Yes. Is it a huge challenge? It’s one that we’re very much looking forward to.”

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    Roy, a crucial part of the trophy-winning 2019 side, was named in a provisional group of 15 for next month’s tournament in India but found himself squeezed out by Harry Brook when the final squad was announced on Sunday.

    The U-turn came after Roy suffered back spasms that ruled him out of the recent New Zealand series, setting in chain a sequence of events that saw understudy Dawid Malan ink his name in at the top of the order and positioned Brook as the most versatile additional batter.

    By axing a player with 116 caps and eight years of experience as a mainstay of the side, England showed a cut-throat approach to defending their 50-over crown and raised uncertainty over Roy’s international future.

    He was offered the chance to join a second-string side for three ODIs against Ireland but turned that down after receiving the crushing news from skipper Jos Buttler over the weekend. National selector Luke Wright made it clear that England still view Roy as an option for the World Cup should one of their top three be ruled out, but that is an olive branch that may not be accepted.

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    England plan to take just one travelling reserve with them on what is a gruelling schedule in India, with Jofra Archer joining the group as part of his continuing rehabilitation from a stress fracture in the right elbow. Others under consideration will be permitted to stay at home until required.

    Wright was sympathetic about Roy’s reluctance to join up with a shadow team to take on the Irish so soon after being ousted, but added that the offer remained open for the second and third games.

    “We’ve given Jason the option of being involved and he still has the option,” said Wright.

    “He wasn’t expecting to be in that Ireland squad and then to get the news that he was missing out on the World Cup all came as a bit of a hammer blow. So we’ve left that with him. The first game at Headingley has come too soon but there is still the option of those last two games. We’ve made it apparent to Jason that we won’t judge him differently for that position as the spare batter at the top of the order whether he plays against Ireland or not. We’ll work on that one over the next few days.”

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    “As much as we thought he probably needed a break, he just wanted another go,” Wright said.

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    Heartbreak for Roy, whose pick up and throw led to the run out which sealed the trophy at Lord’s four years ago, spells elation for Brook, who had been coming to terms with being the odd man out.

    It is thought that white-ball coach Matthew Mott made the call to deliver the bad news to Roy, having finalised the squad with captain Jos Buttler, selector Luke Wright and managing director of men’s cricket Rob Key.

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    Roy has played more ODIs than any other England player since they were crowned world champions in 2019, appearing 32 times, but backs spasms ruled him out of the recent four-match series against New Zealand to raise major doubts over his place.

    It is understood concerns over his fitness formed part of the decision, but his waning form was also a consideration as the selectors looked to find a spot for Brook.

    His output has diminished from a career average of 42.79 at the end of the 2019 final to just 31.78 subsequently. Even so, he may feel he has been harshly treated. In six one-day innings this year he has two centuries – in South Africa and Bangladesh – and his top-order partnership with Jonny Bairstow was, until very recently, seen as a trump card. Now Dawid Malan has made that role his own.

    The situation is reminiscent of the decision made four years earlier, when David Willey was ousted from the preliminary squad in favour of the newly-available Jofra Archer. Willey was devastated to be cut but worked hard to reclaim favour and will be part of the team in India.

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