High Rankin no minnow
It was meant to be England v Pakistan today at Providence, so the sight of a formidable fast bowler in green first thing in the morning was in a way fitting. The bowler was a 22-year-old farmer called Boyd Rankin.
To one who had not seen Ireland play before, it was an eye-opener. I'm not sure if it is correct to call this one a minnow: for a start Rankin stands at 6 feet 8 inches (he is a trifle disturbed people have been saying 6 ft 7). Calling him high rankin' might be two bad puns too many.
More pertinently, Rankin has the makings of a big player. Already, with just the one-first class and a dozen List A or ODIs behind him, he has the appearance of an accomplished bowler. The run-up is strong, the delivery powerful, the length probing, the lift steepling, the pace handy. Ed Joyce, who was meant to have worked out these Irish, shouldered arms and lost his off stump. Michael Vaughan was beaten more than once and finally nicked one. On a hot morning on a flat though slightly moist deck, Rankin's work would have left any international bowler proud.
He needed to leave the field with cramp later. "It wasn't easy when you've got your opening bowler who's bowled so well and he can't come back, " said Ireland captain Trent Johnston. "That's something we'll have to look at, put him on drip two days before the game! He's done well, he's a good young kid, and he's got the ability to go places."
Boyd now averages 23.5 from four matches in the World Cup; before it he was not even a certainty in the XI, just a raw talent who had impressed coaches, including former England seamer Mike Hendrick. Indeed, World Cup preparation had to be mixed with some equally pressing issues.
It is lambing season back home, and things are busy on the family farm in Londonderry in Northern Ireland. "There were a few sheep lambing," he told the Mirror, "so I was doing that whenever I came back from training." It is not quite so casual too. Wake-up time 6am, then a session of farm work, then a driving of 140 miles to practice, then back to farming chores till midnight.
"In this household, it's farming and cricket," Boyd's mother Dawn told the BBC. "The cricket is the only break we get from farming, so it's very important for the family...In the local area, even people who don't really bother with cricket are watching the games. Everybody is talking about it."
"We're here to sort of put Ireland on the map," said Johnston, "and show people that there is good cricket played in Ireland. I'm sure there are a lot of people watching cricket in the pubs today and other places where they normally wouldn't watch cricket." A superstar fast bowler might help the profile.
Rahul Bhattacharya is contributing editor of Cricinfo Magazine and author of Pundits from Pakistan: On Tour with India, 2003-04