Cricket Ireland still hopeful England series will be played in July

Cricket Ireland remain hopeful that their senior men's team will face England in a trio of one-day internationals late next month.
Cricket Ireland still hopeful England series will be played in July
Thirty of Ireland's elite players are returning to training this week at three dedicated hubs. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Cricket Ireland remain hopeful that their senior men's team will face England in a trio of one-day internationals late next month.

That's the good news.

Less encouraging is the acknowledgement from high performance director Richard Holdsworth that the T20 World Cup, for which Ireland has already qualified, is now an “outside” bet to take place in Australia come October.

Ireland were due to play England across three days in September but that was pre-pandemic and everything that has happened on the back of it. A late July date has been mooted for some time now but white smoke hasn't appeared yet.

Cricket Ireland can only proceed on the basis that the series will happen and it is against that backdrop that 30 of the country's elite players are returning to training this week at three dedicated hubs across the island.

The Cricket Ireland High Performance Centre in Dublin has been cleaned and disinfected over the weekend. So too have the Civil Service NI Ground in Belfast and Bready Cricket Club in Tyrone with the players split into three separate training groups for now.

“Clearly, the approval of those matches is a matter for the ECB and the UK Government, and we shall continue to liaise closely with ECB in that regard,” said Holdsworth of the proposed England series on Monday.

“In terms of getting ready for those matches should the approval come, with a 6-8 week period regarded as essential from the standing start of lockdown to being ready for international cricket – particularly for our bowlers – it was crucial that our players did not lose any more time with the England squad already back to training.

“In addition, there is also still the outside prospect of the men’s T20 World Cup in late 2020 – so it may still be a big year for the men’s squad.”

The Ireland women's squad are still hoping to hear news of a rescheduled World Cup qualifier tournament to be played at some point this year. That squad will start training as of tomorrow while the men, aside from two players based in England, get back underway today.

The sessions will feature one-to-one individual work in small groups and in line with the relevant Covid-19 safety protocols. All three venues will be supervised by trained Covid-19 safety officers while players and coaches have taken part in online education sessions over the weekend.

These elite training sessions are just the first step back towards a new normal for cricket with players from the talent pathway and academies to return in due course. Cricket Ireland has also released a detailed return-to-play protocol for its clubs to follow this week.

“While it’s not quite ‘back to normal’ just yet, this is definitely a positive step for cricket in Ireland,” said Holdsworth.

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