ABU DHABI – Following daily training sessions in 30-degree heat over the last few days, the Irish squad had a rest day as part of their build-up to the one-day international series against UAE starting Friday. One player has very much enjoyed his first week on tour with the senior men’s team is Neil Rock, known to most as ‘Pebbles’.
Rock, 20, is a left-handed hard-hitting batter and wicket-keeper. Uncapped at senior level, he has played 24 times for Ireland Wolves and the Cricket Ireland Academy since 2018, with his most recent innings for the Wolves being 58* from 33 balls in a T20 against the Namibian Men’s team in South Africa last year.
He was speaking from the team hotel:
“The next month will be a massive learning experience for me and one I’m really looking forward to. We’ve managed to get outside and train since we completed our three days in quarantine – you could see how happy the lads where just to get outside after spending a long winter indoors.”
Being involved in your first senior men’s is a big career step forward, how did he first hear about his selection and how has bubble-life been so far?
“It was an unexpected phone call if I’m being honest – I actually missed the call the first time round and had to ring Andrew White [Chair of Selectors] back. But once he told me I was picked, I was absolutely delighted”
“Obviously most of the lads have experienced life in the ‘bubble’ during the England series but for me it’s a first. I spent a lot of the first 3 days on Netflix and FIFA, but thankfully the quarantine period has passed and we have since been training before a busy few weeks of games.”
What has been his personal highlights coming up through the Irish ranks over recent years?
“I’ve been fortunate enough to represent a few Irish sides in the last three years. Obviously on a personal note the highlights have been the Under-19s World Cup in 2018, and a couple of innings in Sri Lanka. The two wins for the Wolves against the Bangladesh and Zimbabwe senior sides in 2019 also stand out.”
“The Sri Lankan tour in early 2019 was a great experience as a young player to spend a month in completely different conditions. I learnt a lot from our more experienced guys, but also from the Sri Lankan players, just seeing how they go about playing in those conditions.”
Known for his big-hitting and quick scoring, does Rock have a favourite format of the game?
“I wouldn’t say I have a favourite format. I do feel more comfortable with my game in white ball cricket at the moment, but that’s more so to do with the lack of red ball cricket I’ve played. Unfortunately restrictions prevented us from playing any red ball cricket in 2020, but the few games I have played I’ve really enjoyed.”
Given his highest score for Ireland Wolves is a 201-ball 85 in a four-day first-class match against Sri Lanka A, Rock has already demonstrated his adaptability across all formats of the game and is set for a bright future in cricket.
The international fixtures, which will be played at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi, are:
- UAE v Ireland – 1st ODI – 8 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- UAE v Ireland – 2nd ODI – 10 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- UAE v Ireland – 3rd ODI – 12 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- UAE v Ireland – 4th ODI – 14 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- Afghanistan v Ireland – 1st ODI – 18 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- Afghanistan v Ireland – 2nd ODI – 21 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
- Afghanistan v Ireland – 3rd ODI – 23 Jan 2021 (start: 9.30am local time / 5.30am Irish time)
The matches against Afghanistan will be part of the World Cup Super League (see below for details).
LIVESTREAM / BROADCAST
Matches will be livestreamed via Youtube in Ireland / UK, with further details made available closer to the match days. For the rest of the world, the series with either be shown on satellite television or livestreamed, so please check local guides.
The Ireland Men’s squad is:
- Andrew Balbirnie (C), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, David Delany, Gareth Delany, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, Kevin O’Brien, Neil Rock, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young.
WORLD CUP SUPER LEAGUE
Matches played as part of the inaugural ICC Cricket World Cup Super League (2020-2023) are essentially World Cup Qualifier matches, as the League will serve as part of the 2023 Cricket World Cup Qualification process.
- See the current WCSL table as it stands
The WCSL features thirteen teams, the twelve Full members of the International Cricket Council (ICC), and the Netherlands (who won the 2015–17 ICC World Cricket League Championship to qualify for this competition). Each team will play an ODI series against eight of the twelve opponents, four series at home and four away. Each series will consist of three ODIs. For the World Cup, the hosts (India in 2023), and the top seven-ranked sides thereafter, will qualify automatically. The remaining five teams will play in a qualifying event along with five Associate sides, from which two sides will go through to the final tournament.