Ireland Men’s Topsy-Turvy 2023

It's been a challenging year. Some good, bad, others surreal. Here's a compilation mix to give you a flavour.

Ireland
Ireland's Lorcan Tucker plays a shot during the third day of the Test cricket match between Bangladesh and Ireland at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka on April 6, 2023. (Photo by Munir uz ZAMAN / AFP) (Photo by MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Best

There weren’t many to choose from but qualifying for the 2024 T20 World Cup was certainly one.

Yes, wholly expected, but the ease with which qualification was achieved provided a much needed tonic after the dismal ODI World Cup qualifying campaign in Zimbabwe. Paul Stirling’s aggressive captaincy certainly helped. Ireland’s first series win in Zimbabwe comes a close second.

The Worst

All of the time in the field during the Test match against England at Lord’s (it certainly felt much longer than 87 overs). Test skipper Andrew Balbirnie admitted later he struggled to see where wickets were to come from when looking around the changing room.

It felt like all of Irish cricket’s chickens had come home to roost at once. Without domestic red ball cricket they were woefully underprepared as well as distraction from ODI assignments. Not to mention Cricket Ireland’s Performance Director Richard Holdsworth question how much cricket left arm quick Josh Little was putting in for his country.

The Surreal

Surely the “home” ODI series against Bangladesh in Chelmsford, Essex. Despite some promising performances throughout the ODI Super League, Ireland found themselves needing a 3-0 series win to gain automatic qualification for the 2023 ODI World Cup. Rain would have to stay away.

It was felt, at least at a Cricket Ireland level, that the best chance of an uninterrupted series was to hold it in England. Of course rain intervened in the first game which luckily gave South Africa the final automatic spot. But they made the semi-finals, so good for them.

Moment of Hope

Lorcan Tucker’s Test hundred on debut away against Bangladesh. It capped an incredible day for Ireland where the tourists suddenly seemed able to compete at the level required in alien conditions. A similar instance was when Ireland put on 492 in the second Test against Sri Lanka with Test hundreds from Curtis Campher and Paul Stirling as well as 95 from Balbirnie and 80 from Tucker. Briefly it felt like this is how it should be. Lorcan would also go on to make Test team of the year for The Guardian and Cricket.com.au – the first Irishman to do it.

So lots of different moments throughout 2023. But lots to come in 2024.

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