Ireland skipper William Porterfield is no stranger to adversity, but when he leads the Ireland team out against Australia at Stormont on Thursday there are two things he can’t control-the weather and the size of the crowd!
It doesn’t look too good for Tuesday and Wednesday, but the perennial “scattered showers” outlook for Thursday offers some hope for a decent game. It sounds positive and if the Ireland team is ready to do their bit on the field let’s hope the spectators turn up in numbers to give them the support they deserve. Support for Ireland in the north has been dwarfed by the higher numbers that have attended the big matches in the Dublin area, so this is an excellent opportunity to put our best foot forward. We need to show we have the spectators to justify these big games coming to Belfast and it must start with cricketers themselves coming out to watch the game.
Australia returns to Ireland on the back of a resounding test match victory over England at the Oval and although they lost the series 3-2, few people outside the partisans really believe they are a better side. They are certainly worthy ODI world champions and although a few of their prize assets will not be coming to Belfast the bulk of their best ODI team will be on parade. They include new skipper Steve Smith, Warner, Starc and Marsh from the winning Oval team plus ODI specialists Maxwell, Finch, Watson and Bailey. That may have spelt disaster for Ireland in the old days, but the Ireland team in the modern era is a much more competitive and professional unit. They have earned the right to compete at the highest level and the respect from their opponents is to field a strong side. Make no mistake-Australia will be coming to win, and to win handsomely, while Ireland will not be there to make up the numbers as there is no bigger scalp than the world champions.
Matches like this against the big boys are like gold dust in the insular world of top class cricket, so where better for Ireland to make a strong statement for Irish cricket?
Ireland returns to Stormont after an indifferent and disappointing Twenty20 Qualifying Tournament earlier in the season, but every day brings a new dawn and in this instance an opportunity to bounce back. The absence of the recently-retired Alex Cusack opens a door of opportunity for a young player in the team and despite the quality of the opposition, some of the experienced members of the team will be looking to put in a strong performance to restore faith with some disgruntled supporters. Perhaps none more so than the skipper, who has had an indifferent season at Warwickshire, but has bounced back to form with some stirring performances in recent weeks. William Porterfield is a class act, both as a batsman and as a leader, and if he gets it together on Thursday then he may well rewrite history as the new William the Conqueror.
The match starts at 10-45am and tickets are still available at www.ticketmaster.ie. They should be cheaper given current economic times, especially for youths and senior citizens, but that’s a battle for another day. Meanwhile let’s come out in strength and support the Ireland team against the mighty Aussies.