Photo Credit: Cricket Ireland
The eagerly anticipated 2020 Test Triangle Inter-Provincial Series will get underway on Thursday when the North West Warriors host the Northern Knights at Bready (1.30pm start).
There will be livestream coverage of the game plus a live scorecard and video highlights in the newly launched match centre.
Over the last few years, this fixture has proved to be a competitive one with the Knights winning three of their last five meetings in the shortest format.
The Knights enter the competition as defending champions after winning all three of their games at the first Twenty20 Festival in Pembroke last season, including a seven-wicket victory over the Warriors where James McCollum scored 42* after Shane Getkate had collected remarkable figures of 5-8.
On home turf, the Warriors will be looking to start their campaign on the right foot while the Knights will aim to build on the success of 2019, which marked their first piece of silverware in six years.
After early morning sunshine, the players will be hoping they can dodge some forecasted afternoon rain and get the series underway with a bang.
North West Warriors
Warriors head coach Ian McGregor has been forced into a few late changes with Ireland veteran Boyd Rankin (back), Bready bowler Conor Olphert (torn quad muscle) and batsman Ryan Hunter (work commitments) all ruled out so Kyle Magee and Varun Chopra receive call-ups.
17-year-old Rush batsman Nathan McGuire, who has represented Ireland U19’s and toured South Africa with the Ireland Wolves in February, could make his senior representative debut.
Captain Andy McBrine has plenty of experience to call upon with Ireland opening bowler Craig Young in the side alongside the likes of proven performers William Porterfield and Stuart Thompson.
Warriors squad: Andy McBrine (capt), William Porterfield, Ross Allen, Nathan McGuire, Ryan Hunter, Stuart Thompson, Will Smale, Graham Kennedy, Graham Hume, Craig Young, David Rankin, Kyle Magee, Varun Chopra.
The Knights can call upon nine internationals for their opening fixture with Ireland batsman Paul Stirling set to make his sole appearance before departing for the Vitality T20 Blast in England where he will join up with Northants.
Mark Adair, who played in Ireland’s seven-wicket victory against England in Southampton earlier this month, will have a key role with both bat and ball while older brother Ross is in line to make his Inter-Provincial debut after impressing at club level with CSNI.
David Delany also makes his return from an injury that kept him out of the England series and his raw pace will compliment a bowling attack that contains the likes of Adair, Graeme McCarter and Jacob Mulder.
Knights squad: Gary Wilson (capt), Paul Stirling, James McCollum, Harry Tector, Shane Getkate, Ruhan Pretorius, Mark Adair, Jacob Mulder, Graeme McCarter, David Delany, Ross Adair, Josh Manley, CJ van der Walt.
Northern Knights – Jacob Mulder
Leg-spinners are a valuable commodity in Twenty20 cricket and the Knights have a special talent in Jacob Mulder. The 25-year-old claimed 47 wickets for club side CIYMS last season, helping them lift four trophies, and has started the current campaign in good form after missing out on Ireland selection through injury at the end of 2019. Mulder has impressed in the intra-squad practice games, picked up three wickets in the recent Northern XII vs Southern XII double-header and has developed a reputation for providing a bit of magic when his team needs him.
North West Warriors – Craig Young
Young was mightily impressive in Ireland’s three-game ODI series against England at the Ageas Bowl, picking up six wickets and was threatening the 90mph mark. That sort of pace can be a genuine game changer and with the form that Young is currently in, he could help fire the Warriors to success in 2020. He will be backed up by Stuart Thompson, who has enjoyed success in this competition, and captain McBrine as they look to get some cricket under their belt after a disrupted 2019 campaign in which the Warriors only played one Twenty20 match.
Key to the contest
In the Twenty20 matches that have been contested at Bready since the Inter-Provincial competition was launched in 2013, the average innings score sits around the 125 mark so a real emphasis will have to be placed on sharp fielding and accurate bowling as runs aren’t always easy to come by for the batsmen.
While Twenty20 cricket has become more about flashy sixes and aiming for 200+, smart and measured cricket could be the key here and it’s likely the bowling attacks will have a big say on proceedings with the wicket set to suit both sides.