THE RSA Challenge One Day International (ODI) is underway with Ireland taking on England in front of 10,000 fans at Dublin’s revamped Malahide ground.
Two Irish cricketers who are donning the three lions on their shirt instead of the emerald green worn by their fellow countrymen, are Derry-born Boyd Rankin and Dublin native Eoin Morgan.
Rankin previously represented Ireland in two World Cups and three World Twenty20 tournaments, but has returned to his home country to face his ex-team.
He now becomes the third Irish-born cricketer within the last ten years to sacrifice his Ireland career to play ODI cricket for England.
England is captained by Morgan, who began his England career in 2009 when he was named in the squad for the ODI series against the West Indies.
The pair face Ed Joyce – he represented England in the 2007 World Cup – who chose to re-qualify to play for Ireland after his poor performance during this tournament brought his England career to an end.
“I loved my time playing for England”, but on returning to Ireland he said, “I’m much happier now… playing for my home country.”
The home side have put forward a strong team, although all-rounder Alex Cusack is out with an injury. It is likely that experienced Andrew White will bat at seven instead.
Ireland captain William Porterfield is hopeful that the 9,000 home fans will welcome Rankin “with the same reaction as the other 10 England lads.”
Rankin made the difficult decision to leave his native team, after weighing up the decision that many Irish cricketers who desire to play Test cricket also face.
Ireland are unable to play Test cricket as they are an associate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC), so many Irish-born cricketers aim to qualify to play for England in order to fulfil their ambition to play lengthier games.
Morgan returns to the ground where he began his Leinster senior career with Malahide in 2000; he was part of the team that captured the Irish Senior Cup in 2002.
In the past he has not held back in declaring his ambition to play Test cricket for England, a dream fulfilled when he made his début against Bangladesh at Lord’s in 2010.
Today’s ODI is broadcast on Sky Sports in Ireland and Britain and ESPN worldwide, and Ireland’s captain is hopeful that future generations of Irish cricketers will realise the opportunities to play international cricket without crossing over to play for England.
Ireland squad : William Porterfield (captain) (Warwickshire), George Dockrell (Somerset), Trent Johnston (YMCA), Ed Joyce (Sussex), John Mooney (North County), Tim Murtagh (Middlesex), Kevin O’Brien (Railway Union), Niall O’Brien (Leicestershire), Eddie Richardson (North County), Max Sorensen (The Hills), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Andrew White (Instonians), Gary Wilson (Surrey).
England squad: Eoin Morgan (captain) (Middlesex), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Ravi Bopora (Essex), Danny Briggs (Hampshire), Jos Buttler (Somerset), Michael Carberry (Hampshire), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Jamie Overton (Somerset), Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), James Taylor (Notts), James Tredwell (Kent), Luke Wright (Sussex).