Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie has confirmed that Andy McBrine will open the batting in the World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe next week.

McBrine, who has batted at No.3 for Ireland in only eight of his 92 innings, was the surprise choice to open in Tuesday’s first warm-up game against the United States and yesterday Balbirnie confirmed it was not a one-off — he is doing the same role today against the Netherlands.

“When the squad was picked we had to find an opener, there was no real stand-out, no-one (apart from Paul Stirling) had done it for a long time,” explained the captain.

“We knew Scra (McBrine) had done three pretty well in the Caribbean and against New Zealand and he played well last week (at No.8) in the Test match (when he scored 86 not out against England). He is such an adaptable cricketer that you can put him anywhere and he will just go for it. He is also someone who gets into the team as an off spinner so that gives us other options down the order as well.”

It was expected that Balbirnie would promote himself to opener, from where he scored a century in his first innings against South Africa in 2021, and followed up with 71 against West Indies six months later

But scores of 9, 2 and 0 against New Zealand last summer has obviously knocked his confidence and Balbirnie made clear yesterday his preferred position is still No.3.

“We have had decent success with the one-day team, guys know their roles and we don’t want to change too much, especially on the eve of a tournament. I feel I can contribute to wins in the team at three so I had a chat with Scra and he was absolutely all for it, I’m looking forward to see how it goes next week,” he said.

And if successful over the next couple of weeks, Balbirnie admitted it was a long-term option.

“We’ve had a few openers over the last few years, it’s a hard position to nail down, Andy could potentially do that and if he contributes to us qualifying for a World Cup there’s no doubt he could do it in the Finals,” he added.

“But we can’t get ahead of ourselves, the ups and downs of this competition are pretty brutal and we need to stay level headed throughout the next three weeks.”