05/03/2024

Blundstone Arena has been a happy hunting ground for Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie - Photo: ICC

Seven years after Ireland's sole outing at Bellerive Oval in 2015, the venue still holds sentimental meaning for captain Andrew Balbirnie.

Although the rigours of international cricket and a tyranny of distance have caused seperation, the mere thought of returning to bat at Bellerive Oval is one that excites Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie.

In their only foray to Tasmania to date, a 2015 World Cup group match with Zimbabwe, the men from the ‘Emerald Isle’ walked away with a five run win in what turned out to be a final over thriller.

Central to his side’s fortunes that day was an aggressive Balbirnie. Aged 24 at the time, the then tyro took it upon himself to lift the run rate, blasting a fiery 97 from 79 balls to take the team total to 8/331 after 50 overs.

Now back in Hobart ahead of the 2022 ICC T20 World Cup, Balbirnie has opened up about his attachment to the triumph of seven years prior.

“I remember it being probably one of my most memorable games in an Irish shirt,” he told the media.

“It was a high scoring game, the wicket was really good from memory. I imagine it’s going to be pretty similar, even though it’s a very different time of the year.  

“It’s always nice returning to a ground where you’ve had previous success as a team and as a player. I’m really looking forward to getting out there.”

The batting of Andrew Balbirnie will again be paramount to Ireland’s hopes – Photo: ICC

It might also be said that the 2015 match can serve as a focal point in a greater reflection upon Ireland’s journey of progress within the sport.

In the years since, Ireland has gone through what can be described as a cricket revolution. After being granted full member status of the ICC in 2018, the side has also seen a changing of the guard with the debuts of a spate of supremely talented young cricketers.

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As the likes of Harry Tector, Josh Little (22) and Curtis Campher (23) have started to grow into international cricketers, so to has acceptance of Ireland holding a regular place in the game’s global landscape.

A long cloud, one cast by the now redundant term ‘cricketing minnow,’ still lingers to an extent over the side, however.

Understandably then, magnitude of embarking on another World Cup campaign is not lost on Balbirnie, who is embracing a mentoring role within the group.

“It’s kind of strange. I think back then, we probably didn’t think we’d be back here playing in a World Cup,” he recalled.

“It’s pretty special to be back here.

“We’re trying to help the young guys as best we can. We know that these World Cups can be pretty daunting, but I think the group have played enough cricket against top opposition in different climates to embrace that challenge. 

“We’re in a really good place as a squad.”

With the goal of repeating success at the venue in mind, Ireland now turns attention to Group A opponents, Zimbabwe, Scotland and the West Indies.

While Balbirnie concedes that recent results have not gone his side’s way, confidence within the squad remains high.

Refreshed by a renewed outlook, the Irish charges are full of belief in their ability to advance through the tournament.

“There’s been a big shift in focus in performance-result based talk,” Balbirnie concluded.

“We got caught up in making sure we had the result rather than focus on performance. That shift in mindset has freed up alot of our players. 

“We played a lot of good cricket this (home) summer without winning, but we were pretty happy with how we played.

“We know that if we keep playing that kind of cricket, more often than not we’ll get the right result.”

Group B of the ICC T20 World Cup kicks off in Hobart on October 17 at 3pm AEDT. For a full tournament fixture, click here.

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