Photo Credit: Cricket Ireland
The eagerly anticipated 2020 Test Triangle Inter-Provincial Series will get underway on Thursday when the Leinster Lightning host the Munster Reds at Pembroke (1.30pm start).
There will be livestream coverage of the game plus a live scorecard and video highlights in the newly launched match centre.
For two sides that are – on paper – unbalanced in terms of hardened international talent, the Lightning and the Reds have an amazingly competitive history in recent years. Indeed, last years T20 encounter between the sides was arguably the inter-Provincial Series match of the year. Needing 15 to win from the last over, the Lightning snatched victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat when Matt Ford stuck 10 runs from the last two balls, including a six off the last, to break Reds’ hearts.
12 months previous, the Reds created history when they turned over the Lightning by just 2 runs in a high-scoring affair.
This year’s first match-up between the sides sees once again a star-studded Leinster Lightning take the field, however, this time the Reds feature a squad of hungry young talented players a year older and a year wiser.
The battle will be fascinating.
The weather, though, is the main concern with showers and windy conditions expected. Let’s hope we can get a game between expected rain interruptions.
Lightning Head Coach Nigel Jones has to contend with the imminent loss of Irish international Gareth Delany for most of the series who is heading to the Vitality Blast with Leicestershire, but will have the talented all-rounder in his ranks for this first match.
Captain George Dockrell will be missing due to an exams clash, but Andrew Balbirnie will step in to the top role in Dockrell’s absence.
Curtis Campher is set to play his first competitive match on Irish soil, while Greg Ford will make an appearance replacing his brother Matt who sustained a recent injury.
Lightning squad: Andrew Balbirnie (capt), Rory Anders, Curtis Campher, Peter Chase, Gareth Delany, Stephen Doheny, Greg Ford, Tyrone Kane, Josh Little, Kevin O’Brien, Simi Singh, Lorcan Tucker.
The Reds are a squad featuring some of the best young, up-and-coming talent in the country. Led by Jack Tector, the squad includes his younger brother Tim, Ireland Wolves’ stars JJ Garth and Neil Rock, as well as a host of national under-age representatives all keen to prove themselves on the biggest domestic stage in Ireland. This year there are also five local Munster-born players, demonstrating the clear talent being produced in the Munster system, overseen by Head Coach Ted Williamson.
The possible ‘X Factor’ player for the Reds is Welsh-born Jeremy Lawlor. Lawlor hit a remarkable 90 from 63 balls in yesterday’s Northern XII v Southern XII match at Malahide, and looks keen to show provincial and national selectors his skills.
As coach Williamson said in a recent interview: “it isn’t going to be too hard to blend the squad together this year, because first-and-foremost they’re all good blokes”. And that will be the key to the Reds campaign this year, young talent knitted with a team ethic and high work rate.
Reds squad: Jack Tector (capt), Matthew Brewster, Jonathan Garth, Neil Rock, Tim Tector, Matthew Foster, Diarmuid Carey, Aaron Cawley, Senan Jones, Ruadhan Jones, Jeremy Lawlor, Jamie McNulty, Cormac McLoughlin-Gavin.
Leinster Lightning – Curtis Campher
All eyes will be on all-rounder Campher for his first appearance in Lightning colours. After an explosive start with the national side in Southampton, Campher remains down-to-earth and focused on what lies ahead. Originally listed in many biographical articles as a ‘bowling all-rounder’, his two half-centuries against England demonstrated he is a true all-rounder and will score plenty of runs over coming years. His never-say-die attitude will add steel to a Lightning side that some would argue already has enough steel to go around. However, Campher’s addition possibly moves Lightning into ‘title favourites’ position.
Munster Reds – JJ Garth
One of the strongest non-match moments to come out of the recent England ODI series was after the third ODI, when Adil Rashid was spotted talking for 20 minutes with JJ Garth – giving his time to discuss the art of leg spin. Garth was highly appreciative, but his raw talent is there already for all to see. Just 19 years old, the Pembroke man already has a two Ireland Wolves tours under his belt, and being part of the expanded squad for the England ODI series. Garth’s ability and control will improve with experience, but he already has a habit of grabbing key wickets and challenging opposition batters with his flight.
Key to the contest
Unfortunately with we weather about, the pitch and outfield may be slow and runs may be at a premium. Clearing the ropes consistently may be the key, and the Lightning have some of the biggest and cleanest hitters in the land. But the Reds have already shown they are not daunted by their more northern counterparts, so expect another tight contest.