Vice-captain Kevin O’Brien has been named in the Ireland squad to tour Zimbabwe and Namibia in October.
The 31-year-old takes his place in a full-strength,15-man panel after recovering from the hamstring injury that ruled him out of the one-day international defeat to world champions Australia in August.
It capped a good day for the Railway Union all-rounder, who also signed a one-day and Twenty20 contract with English county side Leicestershire for the 2016 season on Wednesday.
Ireland, who are tenth in the one-day rankings, play three ODI’s against 11th-ranked Zimbabwe in Harare on October 9, 11 and 13, before a four-day match against Zimbabwe A from October 17-20.
Ireland then travel to Windhoek where they play Namibia in the second round of the InterContinental Cup between October 24-27.
“It’s fantastic that everyone is fit and raring to go for the tour,” Ireland captain William Porterfield said.
“I don’t think there’s too much between the sides and I guess the ICC rankings reflect that.” Ireland last visited Zimbabwe in September 2010, just a year after the introduction of the power-sharing government between Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office [FCO] expressed reservations about the 2010 tour because of the delicate political situation in Zimbabwe, but has given the green light for this autumn’s visit to the country.
Cricket Ireland, as a cross-border organisation that represents the whole island of Ireland, liaises with both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the FCO ahead of tours to potential trouble spots.
Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom says that both the British and Irish governments are happy for the tour to go ahead.
“We found the mood music from the FCO to be much more engaging this time around,” he said.
“The FCO are providing us with a political fair wind, and operational and security support on the ground as well.
“The security issues in Zimbabwe are not about a potential threat of global terrorism – it is more to do with crime, muggings and car-jackings.” Ireland’s hopes of persuading Boyd Rankin to return to their ranks have been given a boost after the Warwickshire fast bowler was omitted from the England senior and Lions’ squads for the winter.
Rankin played 82 times for Ireland before committing to England after the 2012 World Twenty20.
However, the Bready man has not played for his adopted country since January 2014 and will become eligible to play for Ireland again two months before the ICC World Twenty20 in India in March 2016.
Rankin, 31, told Ireland head coach John Bracewell over the summer that he still hopes to play for England again, but Deutrom says that the channels of communication between the pair remain open.
“Boyd will obviously draw his own conclusions from England’s announcement, and should he wish to come back, he knows the routes he need to follow to bring that about,” he said.
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