Ireland will be without three big players when they begin their defence of the Intercontinental Cup against Kenya in Eglinton tomorrow. Kyle McCallan will captain the side in the absence of William Porterfield, who, along with Boyd Rankin, is busy with county commitments. Wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien is out of action for six weeks after injuring his ankle during the World Twenty20.
Ireland have called up uncapped fast bowler Andrew Britton, the leading wicket-taker for his side in the Under-19 World Cup last year. He was picked after an impressive performance for Ireland A in Yorkshire last week.
McCallan said the two sides had had some keen tussles over the last few years. "Our victory over them to win our first Intercontinental Cup, in 2005, stands out as one of the best performances by an Irish cricket team," McCallan said. "In my eyes, it's up there with our wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh. That game was perhaps the defining moment for the current squad, and you can trace the current success back to that win. It gave us a sense of belief and the confidence to go on and dominate Associate cricket."
McCallan said the team was looking forward to continuing its magnificent run in the Intercontinental Cup, which they have won the last three times. "The four-day format of the game is one which I personally enjoy, as does the team. You can experiment with different field settings, and the bowlers get a chance to operate in long spells. We have a great record in this format of the game and haven't been beaten since 2004, a game I missed! We've won the last three cups, and we are still hungry for more titles."
Ireland coach Phil Simmons said Kenya may struggle in Irish conditions even though they had an experienced squad. "They may find it difficult to adjust to Irish conditions, although it has been warm here this past few weeks. They may be a bit rusty as they haven't played a lot of cricket since the World Cup Qualifiers in April. That will be a big advantage for us, but it certainly won't be easy."
Simmons said he wanted to continue with the winning momentum that Ireland achieved after winning the Qualifiers and beating Bangladesh in the World Twenty20. "I think we can do that with the current squad. Andy Britton deserves his chance as he's done well over the past 18 months. Trent Johnston was very impressed with him this week in Yorkshire."
Ireland: Kyle McCallan (capt), Andre Botha, Jeremy Bray, Andrew Britton, Peter Connell, Alex Cusack, Trent Johnston, Kevin O'Brien, Andrew Poynter, Paul Stirling, Regan West, Andrew White, Gary Wilson (wk).