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July 12, 2005
The final of the ICC Trophy looks more like a rugby fixture than anything to do with cricket: Ireland take on Scotland at Clontarf in Dublin. Unlike any Six Nations clash, though, both teams have already won - qualification for the World Cup in 2007 and the ICC's increased grant ($500,000 over four years) is really what this event was all about.
Both sides have been selected from full squads - Ed Joyce is back for Ireland after a brief return to Middlesex, while Scotland's policeman-wicketkeeper, Colin Smith, is back on duty after the completion of the G8 conference in Gleneagles.
Scotland are narrow favourites. No side has yet troubled them in the tournament as they waltzed their way to the final. A combination of all-round depth and a trio of pace bowlers has ensured that no opposition has been allowed to get away. Dougie Brown, John Blain and Paul Hoffmann have taken 10, 11 and 15 wickets respectively while their top five individual scores in the tournament have come from five different players - without Brown yet firing.
A thumping win over Bermuda in the semi-final maintained their momentum. But Clontarf has happy memories for the Irish - the nearby Clontarf Castle is symbolic, for the venue is something of a home-side fortress. Ireland's most recent successes against English county opposition in the C&G Trophy (Middlesex in 1997 and Surrey in 2004) have two things in common: both were played at Clontarf and Mark Ramprakash was on the losing side on each occasion.
There is no denying that Ed Joyce is an essential ingredient. In his four knocks in the tournament so far he has scored two hundreds and one fifty in a total of 318 runs, double the next highest run-scorer for Ireland.
The Irish batting should be its strength, although it has not fired quite at they would have hoped. A humdinger of a semi-final (intriguingly at Clontarf again) against Canada ended when Andrew White smashed a six with four needed off three balls. Their progress has not been smooth.
That said, around 1000 people are expected to cheer on the Irish at the picturesque seaside ground, where short boundaries and a true if slow wicket lead to high-scoring clashes. This should prove a fitting finale to an event that has received wide praise for its organisation and professionalism, even if the teams won't mind too much about defeat.
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