IRELAND V SURREY BROWN CAPS at Stormont (C&G Trophy), 14 MAY 2006

The last time these two teams met, Surrey ended up with egg on their faces, after being dumped out of the C&G Trophy in 2004's opening round. The good news for the visitors is that only six remain from the side that beat them on that occasion. The bad news is that the Irish have since picked up a couple of useful overseas players, both of whom need little introduction. They are Shahid Afridi, the man who hit the quickest one-day century on his international debut, and Saqlain Mushtaq, the fastest bowler in history to the one hundred ODI wicket-mark; who will come face to face with his old county.

Other than these two, Eion Morgan, a 19-year-old who is also on Middlesex's books, appears to be the primary danger with the bat, although he is yet to really come off in Ireland's opening handful of C&G matches. With a first-class batting average of 57.79, Jeremy Bray, a 32-year-old former New South Welshman, also needs to be taken seriously. But, thus far this season, Peter Gillespie has been the main one to chip in.

With the new ball, new skipper Trent Johnson - who has much to prove after failing to live up to the promise he showed down under, when he first broke into the NSW team - Andre Botha and John Mooney have all given a good account of themselves at various times. But spin appears to be key for the Irish. Kyle McCallan, who took 3-5 in Ireland's victory over Gloucestershire, will be aiming to keep things tight with his off-spin in tandem with Saqlain and Afridi.

As was the case prior to last Sunday's clash with Somerset, Azhar Mahmood has 2,953 runs and 247 wickets in List A cricket. Alistair Brown (9,974), meanwhile, is closing in rapidly on the ten thousand run-mark.

The only injury is to Martin Bicknell, who is still aiming to make his return in the championship against Worcestershire next week. But with the Brown Caps having lost two out of their first three in the C&G, the team is likely to have rather a youthful look about it on this occasion - and who can blame Alan Butcher for using the rest of this competition to blood a few up-and-coming names? 

Somerset 7 May 2006 C&G Lost By 26 Runs The Oval 253 (47.5) 279-5 (50)
Kent 1 May 2006 C&G Won By 1 Run Canterbury 223-5 (30) 222-6 (30)
Sussex 30 Apr 2006 C&G Lost By 5 Wickets The Oval 272-9 (50) 274-5 (48.2)
Scotland 25 Sep 2005 NL Won By 8 Wickets The Oval 204-2 (30.3) 212-9 (45)
Warwickshire 14 Sep 2005 NL Lost By 68 Runs Edgbaston 224 (40.3) 292-8 (45)

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Sunday is looking none too clever, which could make it an expensive day watching the rain fall for those Surrey fans making the trip over to Belfast. Assuming the match does get underway, though, it would be a major shock if Ireland were to beat Surrey for the second time in succession. Given that the Brown Caps have had the week off to recharge their batteries, I think it unlikely.

D Joyce, J Bray (wk), D Langford-Smith, E Morgan, A Botha, Shahid Afridi, T Johnston (capt), P Gillespie, K McCallan, J Mooney and Saqlain Mushtaq.

Jeff Evans and John Steele.

5-6 May 2004 C&G Lost By 5 Wickets Clontarf Ireland Field 261 (49.5) 262-5 (48.2)
14 May 1996 B&H Won By 5 Wickets Eglinton Ireland Bat 198-5 (37.5) 196-8 (50)
23 Apr 1995 B&H Won By 8 Wickets The Oval Ireland Bat 81-2 (17.1) 80 (32)