Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98
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Ireland's second ODI against the UAE in Abu Dhabi has been postponed yet again, despite no further positive Covid tests being returned.
The second ODI has now been scheduled for January 10, 12, 14 and 16, but on each occasion it has been pushed back, with UAE public health directives preventing "the resumption of competitive action", according to a Cricket Ireland statement. Four UAE players have tested positive for Covid to date, while the Ireland camp have exclusively returned negative results.
The series, which UAE lead 1-0 after a six-wicket win in the first ODI, had been due to comprise four matches, but will now see, at most, two games played. The two boards are in discussions about playing a fixture on Monday, with Ireland's three-match ODI series against Afghanistan due to start on Thursday.
"With the Afghanistan series due to start next Thursday, the players and coaches are keen to get at least another competitive fixture in against the UAE prior to that, so we are hoping that a continued clean bill of health in both camps will allow us to play on Monday," said Richard Holdsworth, Cricket Ireland's performance director.
Ireland have been training over the past week, but have been frustrated to lose out on the opportunity to play competitive cricket ahead of their series against Afghanistan, where World Cup Super League points are at stake.
"We've been trying to cover both bases," Paul Stirling, their vice-captain, said. "Usually the day before an ODI is quite light training, and quite personal as to what your preferences are as a batter or a bowler.
"It's one of those things. I don't think anything has happened normally in the last whenever, so it's just another obstacle. There are times when you think 'this is crap', but then you get a bit of perspective and think it could be a lot worse. I'm probably somewhere in the middle of the two."
For Stirling, the delay is particularly frustrating at a time when he feels in good form, having batted through the innings for 131* in the series opener. He has now made hundreds in his last two ODI innings, but the fact that one of those was his match-winning ton against England in early August illustrates the fact fixtures have been spare for Ireland since Covid hit.
"That innings [against England] feels so long ago," he said. "I feel in nick because I feel ready to play, but once you're in that place, you want to keep playing. There's not much rhythm at the minute."