Gary Wilson: Focus on red-ball technique can aid Ireland's white-ball ambitions

Ireland batting coach confident of strong showing, even with ICC qualifiers taking precedence

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Ireland's batting coach, Gary Wilson, in the nets at Chelmsford  •  Getty Images

Ireland's batting coach, Gary Wilson, in the nets at Chelmsford  •  Getty Images

Gary Wilson, Ireland's batting coach, is hopeful that his team's heightened focus on technique ahead of their one-off Test against England at Lord's will also aid them in their bid to qualify for the 50-over World Cup in India this winter.
The four-day Test, beginning on Thursday, will be Ireland's first against England since a similarly one-off contest at Lord's in 2019, in which Tim Murtagh - now retired from international cricket - bowled the hosts out for 85 on a heady opening day.
And while Wilson, who also played in that match, recalled the optimism of that initial occasion, and how it had seemed to signify that Ireland "belonged" in Test-match cricket, he conceded that the circumstances are rather different four years on.
Ireland have not played red-ball cricket at provincial level since the Covid outbreak in 2020, while their three Tests against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in April were their first outings since that Lord's Test, and only their sixth in all since being granted Test status in June 2017.
And, with Ireland set to fly out to Zimbabwe next month to take part in a tough qualifying tournament also featuring two former World Champion teams in West Indies and Sri Lanka, he echoed the opinion voiced by Richard Holdsworth, Ireland's high performance director, by saying that "white-ball cricket probably does take precedence".
"We obviously haven't played any domestic red-ball cricket for a few years now," Wilson said. "But we identified back in January that we needed to do some red-ball practice, maybe once a week, and really commit to looking to improve our technique as well, because, with white-ball cricket, you play on generally quite flat pitches.
"Technique isn't as important in white-ball cricket as it is in red-ball cricket. But at the end of the day, it's still a ball, whether it's white or red. So we started to throw some balls with the Dukes and the Kookaburra balls back in January, and talk about the different scenarios you might face in Test-match cricket - you know, quick bowlers coming round the wicket with the leg side field, aggressive bowling.
"Even though white-ball cricket probably does take precedence, just by the nature of the fact that we've got two qualifying tournaments and hopefully a World Cup [coming up], red-ball cricket is a really good platform to hone your skills. And those skills are transferable into [ODI] cricket. There's still room for having a real good solid technique."
Wilson cited the form and fortunes of their young star, Harry Tector, who rose to No.7 in the ICC's ODI rankings - the highest rating yet for an Ireland player - on the back of a superb run of form across formats, which culminated in a career-best 140 against Bangladesh in Chelmsford earlier this month.
"Harry Tector's had a phenomenal 18 months, he's really able to take that confidence into Test cricket as well. The way Harry's played has been testament to that [focus on technique]. Quite often when he faces 20 balls, he might only be on 10 in a one-day international. So I think the experiences our guys have had in their white-ball international cricket [will help them in the Test]."
Aside from their winter Test experience, Ireland's batters recently took part in a red-ball camp in Spain, and will arrive at Lord's off the back of a ten-wicket win in their three-day warm-up in Chelmsford, where PJ Moor and James McCollum scored a century apiece in a 232-run fourth-innings run-chase.
"That was a really pleasing day," Wilson said. "I think the whole three days was very pleasing to be honest, we got a lot out of it. Our bowlers got overs under their belts, and the majority of our batters got a hit, bar a couple. So yeah, it was really pleasing for PJ and James. I'm sure they would have put pressure on themselves to get runs and hopefully that will have given them confidence to go into the Test match this week."
As for Ireland's hopes of causing an upset against Ben Stokes' high-flying England team, Wilson was phlegmatic but optimistic.
"As with any Ireland side that ever takes the pitch, it's not a case of going there to simply enjoy the fact that it's the Lord's Test match, or that we're playing England," he said. "We'll be working as hard as we possibly can to get a favourable result. And with the skill level they've shown, I've no doubt that they'll be able to handle even the toughest of opponents, which England will obviously be.
"There's always a chance, 100%. We are going into the Test thinking nothing other than that, we want the win the Test match.
"England are obviously a very good side. They'll be a good side at Lord's in their own conditions, but we both have bats, we both have balls, it's a game of cricket.
"There's been a lot of chat about the way they're playing now, and their so-called Bazball, but if we try and play our game and back our skill level, which the lads have shown, especially individually over the last 18 months, I think that we definitely have a chance to get a favourable result here."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket