The first instalment of our comprehensive Interpros coverage.
The RSA Interprovincial Series. Being run for the first time for the 2013 season, the Interpros are designed to bridge the gap between club cricket and the Irish national team. They also create the top-level domestic structure that Ireland will need for the step up to Test cricket. At the moment, the Interpros do not have 'major' status, which would mean that its matches would count as First Class, List A and Twenty20 games. However, without this status, and without the availability of county cricketers such as Will Porterfield, there will be all the more opportunity for young players like discarded spinners Gary Kidd and Greg Thompson to show their worth.
With ten fully capped Irish internationals in their squads, Leinster Lightning as they will be known in the one-day and T20 competitions are to be led by 2011 World Cup hero Kevin O'Brien and coached by 2007 World Cup hero Trent Johnston. With further all-rounders in John Mooney, Alex Cusack and Stuart Thompson, and bowlers Max Sorensen and Albert van der Merwe, Leinster's bowling line-up has unparalleled strength in this competitions. Backed up by young batsmen Ben Ackland and Andrew Balbirnie, experienced Andrew Poynter and tidy glovemen Fintan McAllister and Stuart Poynter, the Lightning are a balanced team.
The Northern Knights cannot boast the paper strength of Leinster, but they do have a wealth of young players to call on. Skippered by Andrew White, some of the Northern youngsters include Instonians batsman James Shannon, CIYMS opener Chris Dougherty and the aforementioned spin threat of Kidd and Thompson, there is a serious chance for some of the Knights to show that the boys of the Irish Under-19s have really become men worthy of national recognition. This season could go either way for the team from the North - if their youngsters come of age, they could challenge anyone, but if not, they will find be vulnerable.
The final team in the Interpros are the North West Warriors. The Warriors lack a real front-line Ireland star, but have someone who for a long time threatened to be one in the form of troubled seamer Peter Connell. Among the other linchpins of this team are Gloucestershire quick bowler Graeme McCarter and impact all-rounder and 2012 Club Player of the Year Johnny Thompson. Thompson made it into the Irish 'A' team for the first time at the end of the 2012 season, and will have to step up in a side devoid of big names.
According to the official Cricket Ireland website, the Interpros will kick off at The Hills on the 6th of May when the Lightning face the Knights in the Interprovincial Trophy. The Popping Crease will bring you a full report of that game.
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Martin Jones is a teenage cricketer with an obsessive interest in the game, particularly the more obscure and quirky areas of it that don't get enough attention. He has also written articles for Planet Cricket, Third Man Cricket and ESPN Cricinfo.
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