As a fitting end point to a stellar career in the green, Tim Murtagh has chosen to pull up stumps in the international cricket arena, making his Lord’s Test heroics back in July as his final on-field action for Ireland.
The 38-year old seamer made his international debut for Ireland in 2012 after a fabled conversation with Ed Joyce about the London-born Murtagh’s Irish ancestry led to the Middlesex man declaring for Ireland. He received his first cap for Ireland in a one-day international against Australia in Belfast, however with the game washed out after 10 overs, it took a further two-week wait for the next match against Afghanistan for Murtagh’s first ball to be bowled in international cricket.
Over the last eight years Murtagh appeared 97 times for the national side, claiming 142 wickets across all formats at an average of 25.54. Defying the career arc of most, it was remarked by many observers that he seemingly improved with age, and indeed 2018 was Murtagh’s best year for Ireland claiming 28 wickets in 11 matches at a miserly average of 16.32. Apart from the wickets, perhaps his most memorable moment with the ball during 2018 was when he delivered the first-ever ball for Ireland in men’s Test cricket at Malahide against Pakistan.
Murtagh then followed up his sensational season in 2018 with 23 wickets in 2019, headlined by taking his career-best figures of 5-13 against England in the Test match at Lord’s Cricket Ground. The Lambeth-raised Murtagh quipped at the time: “To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be on the away board when I first started playing but I’ll take it wherever it goes. It’s a dream for any cricketer playing a Test match here, so I’m just over the moon.”
Delightfully for Irish fans who watched on, Murtagh also posted a career-best with the bat this year, with his first half-century for Ireland in a back-against-the-wall innings in the Test match against Afghanistan.
Recognised for his performances by receiving the International Player of the Year at the Turkish Airlines Cricket Ireland Awards in 2018, Murtagh remarked once that his greatest regret in international cricket was that he never played in a 50-over World Cup – sustaining an injury on the eve of the 2015 World Cup, and part of the ultimately unsuccessful 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign. He did feature for Ireland in three T20 World Cups (2012, 2014, 2016) – the latter of which saw him come out of self-imposed retirement from that format of the international game that he had announced in 2015. Murtagh has signed a two-year contract extension with Middlesex Cricket and will play red-ball cricket for the county side in 2020.
Announcing his decision, Murtagh said,“This is a day that I have known has been coming for a few years since the ECB changed their regulations, but it hasn’t made the decision any easier. I’ve had eight great years playing international cricket and loved every minute of it. It’s sad that it has come to an end but a decision that I have made my peace with.”
“There are many people to thank for helping me on this journey. Firstly, my amazing wife Karina and the whole family who have endured many weeks/months of me away on tour living the dream. All the management and players from Cricket Ireland who have made me feel so welcome from ‘ball one’. Also, the management at Middlesex Cricket for encouraging me to play at as high a level as I could.”
“A Test Match at Lord’s against England is a great way to finish my international career and a game I will always cherish. I wish the lads all the best for the winter tours and very much hope to help out and be involved in some capacity in the future.”
“Finally, thank you for the support from everyone over in Ireland, both north and south of the border. Very much appreciated and I will be over to see everyone soon.”
Graham Ford, Head Coach of the men’s international side, said,“It’s sad to see such a great player leave our ranks, but Tim has been a model professional and a great asset to have in the dressing room. His performances on the pitch were top-class, but it is also the weight of experience and knowledge of the game that he brought to benefit young bowlers within the Irish setup that made his involvement invaluable.”
“Irish cricket made the right call when it signed Tim up back in 2012, and he can be proud of the positive impact he has had on Irish cricket. I wish Tim well in his next couple of seasons for Middlesex.”
Andrew Balbirnie, Ireland Men’s captain, said,“While I have played with Murts since 2012, and there have been plenty of memorable moments over that time, it is what has now become his last match for Ireland that will stay with me for life. The feeling we had as a team walking out onto the turf at Lord’s on the first morning was a buzz, but standing at slip and watching Murts run in for that first ball somehow gave us a sense of confidence about the day. Saying that, we didn’t expect the morning we had, but his five-wicket haul before lunch is something that is now etched in Irish cricket folklore. Definitely Murts’ reaction when he took his fifth wicket will stay with me forever.”
“In any team you play in, especially as captain, the value of having some experienced heads around the squad is invaluable. While I won’t have Tim to call on going forward, I’ve appreciated his support and advice in the past – and his sense of humour within the camp. He is the ideal sort of teammate you need on long tours or during hard fought matches, and was a source of inspiration for many. His consistency week-in, week-out in all sorts of conditions was a huge part of some important wins. Indeed, the impact he has had on our young seam bowlers and their development cannot be underestimated.”
“I wish Tim all the best with the remainder of his playing career for Middlesex.”
Murtagh has picked up 100 international wickets for Ireland from 75 matches, which includes three Tests, 58 ODIs and 14 T20Is.