Ireland have voiced out a concern previously not considered with regards to playing in front of empty stands. Spotting the white ball against the back drop of the cream-coloured unoccupied seats at the Ageas Bowl has proved to be a difficult proposition.
The venue hosted the first Test of the ongoing England-West Indies series but the red ball posed no such visibility issues, but sighting the white-ball against the light-coloured backdrop is likely to be factor in the upcoming England-Ireland ODI series, with all matches slated to be played at the same venue. Ireland coach Graham Ford flagged the ‘slight concern’ following an intra-squad practice game.
“The thing that’s a little bit of a concern is the background. The seating is either cream or white, and you’ve got a white ball and an empty stadium, so that background for fielders might be a challenge,” Ford said.
Incidentally, the issue is likely to plague only the team fielding in the first innings of these day-night games. Captain Andrew Balbirnie, however, chose not to make a big deal of the issue and hoped that a week of practice building up to the first one-dayer should hold them in good stead. “It can be tricky: a white ball on cream and white seats will be tricky, but we’ve got enough time to make sure we can’t use that as an excuse,” he said.
“It does take a bit of getting used to, but we’ve got a week of prep and we can make sure that we hone that, and make sure that guys are comfortable and almost getting their eyes in while fielding.”
Ireland, like many other sides, are returning to competitive action for the first time since March when they played Afghanistan in India. But unlike the major teams, they are more accustomed to long layoffs between series and believe starting off cold will not be a problem. They acknowledge their standing as an underdog in a contest against England but are optimistic of their chances given their recent showing against the World Champions – last year at Malahide – when England needed Ben Foakes and Sam Curran to edge them home in a tight finish.
“We’ve certainly shown in the previous ODI at Malahide and in the Test match [last year] that we can give them a fright,” he said. “But that’s not what we want to do: we want to be winners,” Ford stated. “There are a few little elements we may have to work on – a few things we might to able to see in terms of the psychological side of it and the pressure they’ve got. It’s a potential banana-skin game for them: they can’t afford to lose to us, and they’ll take a lot of flak if they do.
“There’s a few little issues of, perhaps, egos, and things that we can work on, but I wouldn’t want to talk about the things we want to exploit in the media. The most important thing is that we put good basics in place.”
England will be without two of their white-ball masters in Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler – who are with the Test unit – but pound for pound Eoin Morgan’s side still pack quite a punch with several strokemakers and the likes of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali manning the spin attack. The latter among them is a challenge Ireland believe they’re well prepared for, thanks to their frequent battles with Afghanistan and their army of spinners.
“One of the benefits of playing Afghanistan so often [is] you get the opportunity to play against world-class spinners on a regular basis,” skipper Andrew Balbirnie said. “You learn different things, and learn how to play them in different scenarios. As a squad, we tend to play spin pretty well.”
Ireland have one more warm-up game to play before the ODI series begins on July 30.
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