2019 for Ireland Cricket was a year that was plagued with financial strains and difficulties in having to sustain their cricket.
By the end of year news broke in the international cricket circle that India are planning for a super series with England and Australia with a fourth team being planned to be selected on rotation basis. The news met mixed reactions. But it was a cause of concern for the people sitting thousand kilometers away in Ireland.
When Ireland got the Test status in 2018, there was lots of optimism among the Irish Cricket authorities but they also knew that they would have to work a lot in order to ensure that the game thrives for longer duration. Expenses of over 1 million pounds in the first Test caused such heavy strain on the budget of Ireland Cricket that they couldn’t organize any other Test ever since.
What could’ve been worse? They have had to do a lot of changes in the FTP of 2020 where they’ve already canceled the Test match against Bangladesh at home and have agreed to postpone a Test against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
So how was 2019 for Ireland Cricket in Tests? The team played two Tests this year, both in foreign conditions, as they couldn’t organize a game on home soil. While they succumbed to losses in both one couldn’t retract from certain positives that the five-dayers unfolded. 2019 for Ireland Cricket would be remembered for their impressive performance against England where they dismissed the home team for just 85 on the first day and were in contention to win the contest had familiar batting struggles not transpired.
With a target of 182, it looked that Ireland might stun England but Englishmen exposed their vulnerabilities against the red ball as the Irish were gunned down for just 38.
What lies in 2020?
While popular figures like Balbernie and Kevin O’Brien impressed regularly, rising in prominence in the set-up, among the big positives for Irish Cricket in 2019, it seems the team have clear work on their hands for what lies ahead.
Ireland were scheduled to play 4 tests in 2020, however, one contest against Bangladesh has been canceled, which was the only scheduled home Test match for Ireland, the other against Sri Lanka in February postponed until further notice.
That leaves with them with only two scheduled test matches one against Afghanistan in March and other against Zimbabwe in April.
One Day Internationals:
2019 for Ireland Cricket may have been was perhaps one of the most forgettable runs in the international arena, but where it came to ODI cricket, Ireland’s usual waning fortunes took a backseat.
The Team fared much better in the ODIs, where in spite of missing out in World Cup 2019, they won 6 of the 14 games they featured in, losing 7 of them. While Paul Stirling was the highest scorer with 692 runs but it was Andrew Balbarnie who seem to have coming of age he scored three centuries in 14 matches. The evergreen Tim Murtagh followed Boyd Rankin, who was the top wicket-taker this year, bowling with great caution combining accuracy and speed.
A Hero retires:
19 years of International Cricket, 1197 wickets all across the different formats and different classes, and demonstrating utter gentlemanly conduct.
Such was the experience Ireland lost this year when Tim Murtagh walked into the sunset after the Lords Test.
One wonders, what might be a bigger stage at which to call it quits?
It was only fitting that arguably among Ireland Cricket’s finest bowling heroes claimed a 5-13 in his last test on a ground where he has played a huge chunk of his cricket during his first-class career.
He finished with 74 wickets from 58 One day Internationals and clinched 13 wickets in 3 Tess at an astonishing average of just 16.38. However, at 38 Murtagh wasn’t going to get any younger and might feel a bit lucky to have got a Test cap.
In the end, he was more than satisfied having represented his team and playing at the highest level.
What 2020 holds for them:
2019 for Ireland Cricket might have offered several chinks in their armor, which the team would do well to learn from. But 2020 holds a promise to fight back.
Besides playing 2 Tests, Ireland will be playing number of crucial white-ball contests in the new year. They will be hosting New Zealand, Bangladesh and Pakistan for limited over games. They will also be playing 14 one day internationals and 19 T20 Internationals throughout the year and with ICC World T20 lined up within 10 months they will try their best to perform well on a global platform.
2020 will be a crucial one for Ireland cricket as the visits of major nations might help them to earn much-needed finances. However, in spite of the administration have clearly said that till 2023 it might be difficult to hold regular Tests because of lack of much-needed funding from the ICC and hence there are chances that a number of other fixtures might be canceled or postponed which will not be great news for the game in the country.