Glamorgan Cricket: Ireland's Balbirnie signs short-term deal

By Nick WebbBBC Sport Wales
Balbirnie looking forward to Glamorgan challenge

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie has re-joined Glamorgan as short-term batting cover for the first month of the season.

The signing comes because Glamorgan's Australian duo of Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser are not likely to be available before May.

Their Queensland side is set to feature in the final of the Sheffield Shield competition Down Under.

Balbirnie, 30, played in Glamorgan's 2020 T20 campaign and was top scorer.

He made 255 runs at an average of 32, with a highest score of 99 not out in the home win over Gloucestershire.

The Dublin-born right-hander, who has arrived in Wales, played first-class cricket for the students of Cardiff MCCU and was on Middlesex's books from 2014 to 2016.

Balbirnie has not played first-class cricket since 2019, but led Ireland to a 50-overs victory over England in 2020 and recently captained them in one-day series against Afghanistan and the UAE win Abu Dhabi in January.

"I'm really buzzing to be back, it's always an exciting time at the start of the cricket season and it's great to be over here in Cardiff, a place I love," Balbirnie told BBC Sport Wales.

"Having done pretty well for Glamorgan last year there was always a chance it might come about, and when the opportunity for a short stint came about, I didn't think twice.

"I'm really excited to be playing first-class cricket, it's the biggest test and my favourite format of the game. To come in for a short space of time and fill Marnus Labuschagne's boots will be very hard after his brilliant season in 2019, but I'm looking to score runs, contribute to wins and enjoy my cricket with a really great bunch of people."

Glamorgan director of cricket Mark Wallace says schedule changes in the Australian domestic season are responsible for the late arrival of their overseas pair.

"We've moved quite quickly to bring Andrew Balbirnie back, he was with us for the T20 last year and made a really good impression in that format.

"He has got good experience in four-day cricket, he's got that leadership experience and he was really keen to get here."

Labuschagne and Neser are scheduled to appear in round five of the Championship, away to Lancashire on 6 May.

With plans to field South African batsman Colin Ingram in four-day cricket now on the back-burner amid continuing travel issues, Balbirnie is likely to bat at number three in the opening games of the Championship season, starting in Yorkshire on 8 April.

Batsman Charlie Hemphrey, who is still in Australia, is not expected to feature because of the ECB's ruling that he still counts as a non-England qualified player despite being born in Yorkshire.

Given current travel and quarantine difficulties for overseas players, Glamorgan are not likely to replace bowling all-rounder Neser with another import, despite the release of Graham Wagg and the departure of Marchant de Lange to Somerset.

They have Michael Hogan, Timm van der Gugten, Ruaidhri Smith, Lukas Carey, Roman Walker and Jamie McIlroy as available specialist seam bowlers, along with all-rounders Dan Douthwaite and David Lloyd.

"We've lost a bit of experience but that'll give opportunities to others to step up," said Wallace.

"We've still got a battery of seamers with youngsters like Roman Walker, and Jamie McIlroy has really impressed in the winter as well."

Glamorgan are still waiting for news from the Welsh Government on when supporters could be re-admitted to Sophia Gardens, with the start of the T20 Blast on 10 June a key date for the club's finances.

The Championship season will begin behind closed doors, with limited trials of crowds possible in England in the early weeks of the season.

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