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12 February 201612:53 By Manoj Narayan, Cox's Bazar

Anders happy to blaze a trail for Ireland

Young Irish fast-bowler one of the leading bowlers in the tournament after being one of the stand-out performers of an Irish campaign that finished on a high with a big win over celtic rivals Scotland

The most striking moment of the conversation with Rory Anders was his claim that his favourite subjects were math and science, and that if not cricket, he wouldn’t have a problem getting ahead. “I do quite well in school,” he says, something that not too many cricketers can boast of.

Anders was one of Ireland’s brightest stars in their ICC Under-19 World Cup campaign. On Wednesday (February 10), he picked up two wickets against Scotland to play his part in a 95-run victory. It meant Ireland finished 13th in the World Cup, and Anders ended with 13 wickets.

Anders had quite a few notable displays in the tournament. In the 13th-place play-off semifinal, he picked up 4 for 21 against Canada – his second four-wicket haul in the tournament. During the group stages, he had teams far stronger than Canada and Scotland swinging their bats and missing nervously. Against India, he returned 3 for 35 and was in the thick of things as they were reduced to 55 for 4 before Sarfaraz Khan and Washington Sundar led the recovery. He was Ireland’s most economical bowler as well.

Against New Zealand after that, he went one better, nipping out their top four as they chased 213. The Kiwis eventually won, but Anders ended with fine returns of 4 for 32. And then against Canada, he bagged another four-wicket haul, firing out the top three and instigating a collapse that ended in them being bundled out for 139.

It may be has something to do with his inclination towards math and science, because Anders’s bowling is all about precision and geometry. He loves the angles, and loves it even more when there is some movement around. He isn’t very threatening with his pace – even from a distance, you can follow the ball out of his hand without straining your eyes. His run-up is fairly short, his action is clean and uncomplicated. He is tall, but walks with a hint of a slouch that gives the impression that he’s not really that tall. And he bounds in sporting a headband.

Quite unthreatening appearance-wise, but the Canada boys were in for a surprise when he had them on the ropes from his very first over. Ball after ball was sent in at that uncertain fourth-stump line, and Thursaanth Anantharajah soon edged one to slips. The pressure was kept up, and Bhavindu Adhihetty fell prey, a rush off blood that had him top-edging one to the ‘keeper. Amish Taploo was his third victim — there was a bit of inward movement as the batsman was struck plumb in front. His fourth was an excellent yorker that was just too good for Mamik Luthra.

More of the same was on display against Scotland. A deceptive slower ball had Neil Flack, the captain, chipping one to mid-on, and that set the Scotland slide in motion.

“I just try to bowl a good line and length as much as I can,” he explains. “I sort of move the ball away from the batsmen, sometimes nip it back in … I rely on swing. I wouldn’t describe myself as a quick bowler. More sort of hit-the-deck bowler. My bowling is quite natural, I’ve never really tinkered with my action very much. It’s always been the natural action that I have had, haven’t changed that since I was about 12.”

Ireland have had a poor tournament so far, losing four out of five games. But Anders has been their one real positive. “Personally, it’s been quite a successful tournament for me, which is good,” he says. “It means the hard work is paying off. I especially liked the match against India, considering the people that you would be taking wickets against. I would have heard of them before, playing in the IPL. There was Ricky Bhui … it was great for me to do that. Everyone back at home in Ireland was watching on TV. It was very satisfying, it was very cool.”

Anders is particularly enjoying his Bangladesh experience, not just for his deeds on the field but for the pleasant feeling that is quite alien to an Irish youngster – being in a country that lives and breathes cricket. At the Sheikh Kamal International Stadium on Sunday, some 200-odd fans had gathered to watch a match they had no personal interest in. It was all new to Anders.

“It’s incredible playing in this country. Typically, cricket in Ireland isn’t the biggest sport. But in Bangladesh, it’s huge,” he says, his eyes widening. “Everyone is playing it everywhere. It’s an incredible experience to go to a country that actually just loves it. They just eat, sleep cricket. They were cheering both sides today, they were cheering whoever was playing better! It’s been great to come out here.”

That is perhaps one of the lessons, the experiences that an associate side takes away from this World Cup. The understanding that the sport they’ve chosen is loved and adored by many. It is easy for that fact to be clouded in countries where cricket doesn’t hold pride of place.

Anders says he started playing “at about ten or 11 years old” and the passion was instilled by Brian O’Rourke, a huge figure for cricket in Ireland who won the ICC award for Outstanding Contribution to Cricket Coaching in 2012 and was involved in coaching the likes of Eoin Morgan and several of the current Ireland senior team. Thereafter, he progressed through the age groups at Cricket Leinster and Ireland youth teams, before eventually reaching the World Cup.

He plays for Phoenix Cricket Club – “best cricket club around,” he says proudly – and is part of the set-up at Leinster Lightening at the first-class level. Ireland’s first-class competition, the Inter-Provincial Championship, has only three teams competing, and Anders hopes the expansion process accelerates.

“There’s been a base for first-class cricket being implemented in Ireland, which is a good start,” he says of the health of the sport in the country. “If we could just sort of progress forwards from that, then all the Irish guys wouldn’t have to go to English counties to develop themselves. It would be great to have a first-class system in place, with plenty of teams. It would be better if it could be expanded. There are just three teams now, but the more the merrier.”

It is easy to forget that Anders is just an 18-year-old, but that fact is driven home when he talks about Dale Steyn. “I wish I could emulate Dale Steyn … I would love to. That would be cool.” However, he is more in the mould of Stuart Broad. “My game is more like a … if there’s someone I could compare myself to, it would be to someone like Stuart Broad maybe. A bit of a bowling allrounder, that sort of player.”

The matter of his age is reinforced when he speaks of his plans after the World Cup. “I’ll be into my studies because I’m in my last year at school and I’m doing my big exams this year. That won’t be as fun as this, obviously.”

Obviously. But if he does well at school, as he says, it shouldn’t be that bad either.