On a cloudy afternoon in Malahide last September, Leinster Lightning found themselves in murky waters at 11/2 early on chasing 240 against Northern Knights in the Cricket Ireland Inter-Provincial Limited Over Cup. In walked Lorcan Tucker.
What followed was an exhibition of poise and fluidity as he piled on a run-a-ball 83 to extend his side’s undefeated run.
On Monday (18th January), the premise was all too familiar in Abu Dhabi. Having lost Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien and captain Andrew Balbirnie cheaply with the score 10/3, here was an opportunity waiting to present itself.
Joining forces with Harry Tector, who was more proactive in looking to work the gaps, Tucker was happy to play second fiddle all along. So much so that he took 43 deliveries to reach double figures. Perhaps keeping up with the spirit of Test cricket in Galle and Brisbane on the same day. Oh the strange needs of an hour in one-day cricket…
Anyone who has followed the Dubliner’s career would wryly attest it hasn’t been plain sailing. Fingal-based Cricket Leinster reporter Peter Boyd, who bore witness to that knock in September, acknowledged Tucker’s brilliance on the day, but also underlined the importance of playing with a sense of freedom.
‘Lorcan needed a few runs today and I was delighted to see him get a few personally, in a tough situation. He is a very dangerous batsman when the shackles are released and he bats freely,’ Boyd told Emerging Cricket. ‘At 11/2 & 10/3, the pressure is off him in a strange way as the top order has failed and he can bat with freedom and there’s not much expected of the innings, if that makes sense. He’s a very intelligent young man, who perhaps overthinks at times. The freedom to play his own game often helps release the pressure.’
In a 72-run partnership which lasted 124 balls, Tucker dropped the anchor to weather the storm, a common approach also seen in his 68-ball 31 against the West Indies at Kensington Oval in Barbados a year ago. It was then not so much about the enterprising shots but about the ability to hang in there to restore a semblance of control.
In a phase that mirrored glimpses of previous innings, he looked tentative against Rohan Mustafa’s right-arm darts and Waheed Ahmed’s gentle swing on a sluggish pitch. He heaved leg-spinner Karthik Meiyappan through the on-side soon after but the shots seemed to be born out of desperation more than conviction.
It wasn’t long after Tector was dismissed reverse sweeping Mustafa that Tucker entered a phase when he looked the most in control. He swept Meiyappan’s back-to-back tossed up half volleys rather disdainfully through the on-side for a brace of boundaries. It was no longer agricultural and the positive intent was beginning to show.
The most authoritative shot came against the skipper Ahmed Raza seven overs later, dancing down the track for a six over long on. Having been suckered into upping the ante, he perished two balls later for an 81-ball 42. Easily his longest international knock in terms of deliveries faced.
As Ireland finished with 228 on the board, the magnitude of his knock dwarfed in comparison to the more aggressive contributions from the duo of Simi Singh (53*) and Curtis Campher, and a handy cameo by Gareth Delany at the backend of the innings. However, one mustn’t overlook the understated partnership, which was instrumental in laying a strong foundation.
With Tucker, there have been flashes of brilliance behind the sticks more often than with the willow but his knock yesterday reaffirmed the faith coaches have shown in him despite a lowly average of 16.7 in eleven games.
There was, however, an archetypal half-century in Belfast against Zimbabwe, more akin to the Leinster chase than this week’s knock against the UAE. In just his fourth game, he struck a brisk 56 in the death overs, albeit a fairly inconspicuous one, sandwiched between James McCollum’s 73 and Tim Murtagh’s five-wicket haul. But that remains his only noteworthy knock in terms of landmarks.
It, therefore, begged the question on the tour to England last summer as to what leapfrogged Tucker ahead of Gary Wilson, a veteran of 105 ODIs. Perhaps, the 32-year-old’s average of nearly 23 wasn’t appealing. There is also hardly ever a time when one can convincingly argue against blooding a youngster with a World Cup two years away, as opposed to doing so just two months out.
Having debuted against England at home in 2019, Tucker has enjoyed a decent run in the squad not only because of the promise he brings but also due to the lack of reliable options. Previously that year, Stuart Poynter played all matches across all three formats against Afghanistan on the tour to India but his low returns coupled with a dismal ODI career average of 13.2 did little to inspire confidence in the selectors for a longer trial.
If one casts the net further, the likes of Stephen Doheny and Neil Rock could push Tucker for a spot in the coming years. The latter is currently a part of the Irish squad on his first senior tour.
However, it would be unwise to get carried away at this point as sterner challenges await against the Afghans this week. For their spin bowlers will be harder to predict on a similarly slow pitch. Any blemishes would be inexcusable with precious ICC Cricket World Cup Super League points on the line.
Despite being robbed of half the game time promised, the depth of the chosen squad on display on Monday would have pleased Balbirnie no end heading into their next assignment. The day may have belonged to his Leinster teammates Campher and Simi Singh but memories of Monday afternoon will warm Tucker just as much.
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