Home#ECVoiceCan the Knights knock the Lightning off their pedestal? Ireland Interpro preview

Can the Knights knock the Lightning off their pedestal? Ireland Interpro preview

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The first of May marks the start of the Irish Domestic season. The schedule shows a clear focus on using the Interpros to prepare the national team for a busy year of cricket. The 50-over tournament will be held in its entirety early this summer, ahead of important ODI Super League series against The Netherlands, South Africa and Zimbabwe, with the T20 tournament picking up later in the year, as Ireland begin their World Cup preparations.

Sadly, due to financial concerns and fixture congestion, the drawer in Cricket Ireland HQ containing red balls remains locked and gathering dust, as the First-Class Tournament has been put off for a second consecutive year, coinciding with a second year without Test Cricket for the national side.

Leinster Lightning

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Leinster have been the dominant force of Irish Interpro cricket ever since the new Irish Domestic set-up was established. Of the 23 trophies on offer across all formats since the Interpros began in 2013, the Lightning have gone home with 19 of them.

A reshuffling of squads has seen several strong players lost to other teams, but there is so much strength in depth available to the Dublin-based team that it is unlikely to make much difference. The Lightning side that walks out onto the pitch at Pembroke on May 1st to face the North West Warriors will still look like someone has accidentally slipped an Ireland teamsheet to the scorers. Balbirnie, O’Brien, Singh, McCarthy, Little, Chase, Dockrell, and Tucker make up a formidable core of the team, with 421 ODI and 296 T20I caps between them.

Captain: George Dockrell

Star player: Simi Singh

It says something about Leinster’s strength when players like Andy Balbirnie and Kevin O’Brien miss out here, but Simi Singh is an unstoppable force in the Interpros. Top wicket-taker in both competitions last year, highest individual score in the history of the 50-over competition, and the only player in Interpro history to score a century and take a 5-fer in the same match. Welcome to Simi’s playground.

Simi Singh Ireland
Simi Singh bowling against Namibia at the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier (Photo: ICC)

Uncapped player to watch: JJ Garth

The 20-year-old wrist spinner has long been identified as a talent for the future, being picked for the squad that travelled to England for the ODI series last year, and a regular fixture in the Ireland Wolves.

With the spin friendly Indian conditions of the T20 World Cup later this year, there will be room in the Ireland squad for a talented young leggie. Garth will be determined to fight off stiff competition from the Knights’ Ben White to claim that spot.

Predictions:

50 over: 1st (1st in 2020) – Strong top order batting, Ireland’s No.1 wicketkeeper, a range of talented seamers with international experience, and plenty of spin options – the Lightning are a team with no obvious weakness and topping yet another table seems almost inevitable. 

T20: 2nd (1st in 2020) – A lack of T20 specialists compared to the Northern Knights and the higher likelihood of upsets the shorter form provides could see the Interprovincial Trophy heading up the M1 to Belfast.

Munster Reds

The biggest beneficiaries of the changes made to this year’s tournaments, Munster will be taking part in the 50-over competition for the first time, and have received a considerable boost to their playing strength, gaining Tyrone Kane, Gareth Delany and Curtis Campher from Leinster. 

Kane in particular will be keen to break back into Ireland contention having been deemed good enough to feature in Ireland’s first Test match in 2018 but barely featuring since, despite being a consistent wicket taker at domestic level. The Zimbabwean Wicketkeeper PJ Moor will bring his international experience (8 Tests, 49 ODIs & 21 T201s) to bolster the Red’s XI. Munster look set to be a very exciting team to follow in 2021

Captain: Tyrone Kane

Star player: Curtis Campher

The Johannesburg-born all-rounder broke into the International scene in spectacular style last year. Two fifties and five wickets across the three-match series against England was a dream introduction to Irish Cricket for Campher. A slow start to Interpro life at Leinster Lightning was quickly forgotten as Campher ended last season as the 5th highest run scorer and 2nd highest wicket taker in the 50-over competition. The all-rounder will be keen to leave a slightly underwhelming Wolves tour to Bangladesh behind him and deliver some strong performances for his new team.

Who is Curtis Campher?
Curtis Campher batting against England (Photo: ICC)

Uncapped player to watch: Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin

Another in a long line of Leinster players who have spent several seasons playing for the Reds in T20 matches. McLoughlin-Gavin has looked promising in his limited opportunities at Interpro cricket so far. A solid run opening the batting for Munster should allow the Dubliner to build on a promising start and show what he can do against Ireland’s best. 

Predictions:

50 over: 4th (N/A in 2020) – The young Munster squad will see the List A matches as a learning experience, and at best will be hoping to pull off an upset or two.

T20: 3rd (3rd in 2020) – The Reds were able to finish above the Warriors last year and will be hoping their strengthened squad will allow them to repeat that. This could be Gareth Delany’s chance to shine, as he brings back his Vitality Blast experience with Leicestershire, where he scored 188 runs at a 141 strike rate, including two 50s.

Northern Knights

The Northern Knights have developed into an exciting team in recent years. The backbone of the squad is composed of several young Irish internationals, including Harry Tector, Mark Adair, James McCollum and David Delany. If any team are going to mount a serious challenge to Leinster’s stranglehold, it will be the Knights. They will have to cope with two major departures, with Shane Getkate and Gary Wilson moving to the Warriors (as player and head coach respectively), but there should be enough strength in their squad to cover for those absences.  

Captain: Harry Tector

Star player: Paul Stirling

This should go without saying. Technically this is Stirling’s second season in the Interpros, but he only managed a single T20 game (scoring 41* from 24 balls) last year before being whisked away to Northants for the Blast. Assuming he is not pinched by another franchise, this will be Stirling’s first proper chance to make his mark on the Irish Domestic scene. His ability to completely change a game will be clear to all.

Paul Stirling (Photo: ICC)

Uncapped player to watch: Ruhan Pretorius

Pretorius is one of several Southern Hemisphere players either holding or approaching Irish eligibility and at present seems to be the front-runner for an Ireland call up when he becomes eligible early next year. The South African all-rounder scored plenty of runs and took key wickets in Ireland Wolves largely disappointing tour of Bangladesh. In addition to a few solid performances with the Knights already under his belt, Pretorius looks set to be a key player.

Predictions:

50 over: 2nd (2nd in 2020) – The lack of experience in the Northern Knights squad compared to the Lightning, as well as a slightly weaker seam bowling attack (particularly if David Delany is unavailable) could be the deciding factors in the 50 over matches, but there is enough quality here to see them comfortably to a top half finish.

T20: 1st (2nd in 2020) – [See ‘Star Player’]

North West Warriors

The Warriors have seemed a bit off the pace in recent seasons, trailing behind Leinster and the Knights with an aging squad lacking some of the youthful flair available to the others. Doheny and Getakte are both talented additions to the team this year, and under new Head Coach Gary Wilson, the Warriors have a better mix of experience (Porterfield, Young, Rankin) and potential (Smale, Olphert, Doheny) in their line-up.

Captain: Andy McBrine

Star player: Craig Young

Currently Ireland’s first choice seam bowler, Craig Young has a lot of experience taking wickets in this competition. If he takes his recent international form into matches this year, the opposition batsmen could find themselves in trouble. With Boyd Rankin picking up injuries with unfortunate regularity, there will be a lot riding on Young to lead the Warriors attack.

Craig Young bowling against Nigeria during the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier (Photo: ICC)

Uncapped player to watch: Stephen Doheny

Top run scorer in the List A tournament last year playing for Leinster, Doheny will be keen to push on and earn the Ireland call up that is only a matter of time. Regular fifties for both Leinster and Ireland Wolves demonstrate a batsman who can score consistently and will provide the Warriors with sorely needed strength at the top of the order.

Predictions:

50 over: 3rd (3rd in 2020) – Some good performances from the Warriors senior squad members could very well see them to victory here and there, but over the course of the season, their squad does not seem strong enough to challenge for the title.

T20: 4th (4th in 2020) – A squad containing lots of players better suited to longer forms of the game are likely to be taken apart by the Knights and the Lightning, and could be in for a shock when they come up against the young, aggressive Munster side hungry for an upset.

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