Simmons encouraged by another year to remember for Irish cricket

Tue, Nov 13, 2012 3:53 AM

Simmons encouraged by another year to remember for Irish cricket
Ireland coach Phil Simmons © Getty Images
Ireland coach Phil Simmons has reflected on another encouraging year for the nation's cricket on the eve of the Inaugural Cricket Ireland Awards on Friday November 16.

The former West Indies international looked back particularly fondly on the men's side's ICC World Twenty20 qualifying final success against Afghanistan when the Irish achieved a five-wicket victory.

Simmons told "The final against Afghanistan was in many observers' eyes the best game ever played between two Associates - I certainly haven't been involved in a better one at this level.

"The innings Paul Stirling produced (79 off 38 balls) was nothing short of incredible. The power, placement and shot selection was breath-taking and it was a real privilege to witness it. I said at the time he has the ability to be rated with the greats of world cricket including Chris Gayle and Virender Sehwag."

Ireland could not pull off a shock in the ICC World Twenty20 in September - losing to Australia and seeing the match with West Indies abandoned due to rain - but at least one player returned from Sri Lanka with an enhanced reputation.

Young spin bowler George Dockrell was named the ICC Associate Cricketer of the Year at a ceremony shortly before the tournament got underway. Simmons believes the slow left-armer was full value for his award.

"He (Dockrell) has a calmness and authority about his bowling and he is cool under pressure," said Simmons. "He was our leading wicket taker during the season (37 in total) and very rarely has an off day. He and Albert van der Merwe were superb in the Intercontinental Cup win against Kenya in Mombassa. George has shown himself to be versatile in all forms of the game and he has not only done well with Ireland but also excelled in county cricket with Somerset."

There was also plenty to cheer about at youth and domestic cricket as Ireland continues to put into place a structure that they hope will lead to them becoming a Test nation by 2020.

Irish women's cricket is also on the up with the senior team winning the ICC Europe T20 World Cup Qualifier along with ECB Division 3 County Championship and T20 titles.

Simmons commented: "They have impressed everyone with their dedication and commitment, and have assembled a superb squad…with Clare Shillington reaching the milestone of 100 caps, Cecelia Joyce scoring heavily and Kim Garth having a wonderful all-round campaign."

Irish cricket now gets the opportunity to reflect on the year gone by at the Round Room in Dublin with Simmons delighted by the continuing improvement being shown since he got involved in 2007.

"There's much to be proud of in Irish cricket in the six seasons I've been involved," he said. "There's been remarkable progress in professionalism both on and off the field and a sense of belief that Irish cricket is deserving of a place at the top table of world cricket.

"With that belief comes an expectation of success and we've seen in Sri Lanka (during the ICC World Twenty20) just how seriously top nations now take the challenge of Ireland. This brings a new level of pressure but one which I feel we are more than capable of dealing with as we all look to take cricket in Ireland to the next level.

Simmons concluded: "The awards ceremony will be a great celebration of all that is good within Irish cricket and I look forward to everyone enjoying a very special evening."

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