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Andrew Balbirnie: Harry Tector can become 'one of the greats of Irish cricket'

Mighty innings containing ten sixes continues impressive run of form for 23-year-old

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Harry Tector smashed 140 off 113 balls  •  Andrew Miller/ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Harry Tector smashed 140 off 113 balls  •  Andrew Miller/ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Andrew Balbirnie, Ireland's captain, said that Harry Tector has all the attributes to become "one of the greats of Irish cricket", after lighting up a damp afternoon in Chelmsford with a career-best 140 from 113 balls against Bangladesh.
Tector's innings was not quite enough to set his team up for victory, with Najmul Hossain Shanto's century setting the stage for Bangladesh's thrilling three-wicket win in the final over of the match.
Nevertheless, after arriving at the crease with Ireland on a dicey 16 for 2 in the seventh over of the match, into the teeth of Hasan Mahmud's superb new-ball spell, Tector turned on the power to startling effect, crashing an Ireland-record ten sixes including three in an over off Taijul Islam to bring up his half-century from 52 balls.
Thereafter he climbed through the gears, in particular during a sixth-wicket stand of 115 from 68 balls with George Dockrell (74 not out from 47). In a match reduced to 45-overs-a-side by persistent morning drizzle, it took all of Mushfiqur Rahim's poise at the death to guide Bangladesh to a taxing target of 320 - only two runs shy of their highest successful chase in ODIs.
At the age of 23, it was Tector's fourth ODI hundred in his past nine innings, dating back to New Zealand's tour of Ireland in July 2022, while last month - on Test debut against Bangladesh in Mirpur, he also produced a brace of half-centuries, including a second-innings 56 after his team had slumped to 13 for 4.
"His performances in the last 12 to 18 months have been so good for us, and particularly in 50-over cricket," Balbirnie said. "I think that was as good a knock as I've seen in Irish colours for a 50-over game. He's just got all the attributes to go on and be one of the greats of Irish cricket and I hope that we can help him on his way, and he continues to put in scores for us. The more runs he gets for us, the better place we're going to be."
Tector's efforts came within a whisker of securing the win, which was completed under the full beam of Chelmsford's floodlights as Mushfiqur ramped a free hit for four off Mark Adair, moments after surviving being caught at backward square leg off due to a no-ball being called on height.
The result was greeted with glee by another passionate gathering of Bangladesh fans, a handful of whom rushed out to the middle to congratulate Mushfiqur amid chaotic scenes. And despite the loss, Balbirnie admitted his disappointment was tempered by the knowledge that they had already missed out on their slender hopes of automatic qualification for the 2023 ODI World Cup, due to the wash-out in the opening match that had guaranteed South Africa's eighth-place finish in the Super League table.
"Bangladesh entertained the crowd who braced the elements, as it was very cold out there, but I think if we were still able to qualify and we had a result like that, it would really hurt us," Balbirnie said. "I thought we played pretty good cricket, which is a good sign going into the qualifiers [in Zimbabwe] later on in the summer. It's just a shame we couldn't really get over the line."
Nevertheless, having played in front of similarly passionate fans on Ireland's recent tour of Bangladesh, Balbirnie took plenty of heart from the fact that the contest had once again drawn such an enthusiastic following despite it being staged in a neutral venue for logistical reasons.
"It was amazing, and when that last boundary went, I just wanted some headphones because it was so loud," he said. "There were people running on the pitch, but I think it's just really great for the game. It's enjoyable for all the players to play in front of passionate fans and that brings out the best in our players.
"As I said before, as Irish cricketers, we want to play as much as we can in front of our own fans because we're trying to grow the sport in our country, and that's the only way we can do it. But at the moment, it is what it is, and for us to be playing at a neutral ground and get a crowd like we did today, that's kind of what it's about.
"We got a taste for it in Bangladesh. They beat us very comfortably there, but it was nice to show ourselves that if we play good cricket, we can beat a team like this. At the end of the day, we haven't won the game but it's been a good day out, and I'm pretty proud of the group."
Although there's another ODI to come on Sunday, Balbirnie admitted that Ireland's focus was already beginning to shift further down the line, with the 50-over World Cup qualifier looming in June and July, as well as the T20 version in Abu Dhabi in September.
"I don't want to look too far ahead but, naturally that 50-over qualifier and T20 qualifier post-Zim are the two most important schedules in our calendar at the moment," he said. "But we want to enjoy ourselves. We want to enjoy the challenges that are coming over the next few weeks and hopefully we can embrace them and play a certain way that people want to watch us.
And more immediately still, he added, there's the "small matter" of a Test match against England, which gets underway at Lord's on June 1.
"It's very exciting for a number of us who haven't played at Lord's," Balbirnie said. "But it's a special event in the English cricket calendar, never mind our own calendar. So we're very fortunate and privileged to be able to play there.
"We know the type of cricket England are playing is amazing to watch, so it'll be nice to come up against it and try to find our own way of competing against it. Hopefully we can play good cricket and try to match them as best we can."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket