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CW World Cup Countdown. Day 2 - Ireland
25 Feb 2007
By: Archie Mac


As part of a series of articles leading up to the World Cup, Cricket Web presents a daily review on the background, players and prospects a specific competing team, starting with the minnows and building up to the favourites. Today we feature Ireland.

Ireland will enter their first World Cup with an outside chance of winning their opening clash with a politically torn Zimbabwe team.

Ireland and Zimbabwe are drawn in Group D, with home team the West Indies, and the talented but inconsistent Pakistan, and will almost certainly fail to progress to the 'Super 8' stage of the tournament.

Astronomical odds to defeat either the host nation or a powerful Pakistan, Ireland will have earmarked their opening clash on the 15th of March at Sabina Park with Zimbabwe to display their ability to the cricketing world.

Ireland are also scheduled to play two warm up matches. The first against the powerful South African team on the 5th of March at Trinidad, and the second versus Canada on the 8th also in Trinidad. The second match should contain some added 'needle' with both teams having recently qualified for the final of the ICC Intercontinental Cup (to be played late May).

Road to the Cup

Ireland would have been bitterly disappointed in their poor showing during the ICC World Cricket League. Their loss sees them drop to third in the Associate ODI rankings, behind Scotland and the Netherlands.

Entering as warm favourites, they managed just one win from five starts, and seemed to lack the ability to finish off matches. Their clash with eventual tournament winners Kenya was typical of the problems encountered during the series.

Seemingly headed for certain victory, Ireland let Kenya escape with an improbable one wicket win. Needing 52 runs from just six overs, Thomas Odoyo smashed the hapless Irish bowlers to all parts and guided Kenya home.

The whole tournament followed a similar pattern, with the Irish batsman consistently setting up competitive totals, only for the bowlers to serve up cannon fodder for the opposition.

On a brighter note, their consistent form in the ICC Intercontinental Cup has been a real confidence boost to the Ireland camp, with some quality performances with both bat and more importantly ball.

Players To Watch

At just 22 years of age, left handed opening batsman William Porterfield looks a real prospect, averaging 78.20 from his seven ODI matches.

Porterfield hits the ball cleanly and with great power. He recently scored two hundreds during the ICC World Cricket League and was considered the find of the tournament.

Eoin Morgan is tipped to be the next big thing in Irish cricket. This 20 year old left hander has recently broken into the Middlesex first eleven. Morgan was also the captain of the Irish Under 19 World Cup team. This impressive youngster has an ODI average of 60 and a strike rate of 85 from his six matches.

Niall O'Brien is a talented wicket-keeper/batsman. O'Brien has been released from Kent where he was understudy to Geraint Jones. A hard hitting batsman O'Brien is set to shine during the World Cup. A real competitor with a short fuse it is hoped that he can inspire his team-mates from behind the stumps.

Strengths

Batting is the undoubted strength of this young Irish team. This was demonstrated during the ICC World Cricket League with Irish batsman contributing five of the ten centuries scored during the competition. With Porterfield, Morgan and the experienced South African born Andre Botha, Ireland boast some exciting left handed batsmen.

Morgan and Botha are both in fine form, after putting on an Ireland record partnership of 360 for the third wicket during their recent clash with the UAE.

Weaknesses

Bowling, the attack could best be described as containing; the lack of penetrative speed is a real concern. Whereas the batting has many young talented players coming through, the bowling seems stagnated, and could well cause Ireland some embarrassment if opposition teams take to this 'pop gun' attack.

A heavy burden will fall on the shoulders of captain Trent Johnston, his fast medium right arm bowling will be crucial if Ireland are to contain some of the world's best batsman.

Support will come from 22 year old Boyd Rankin, while Kyle McCallan may prove a match winner if he can land his right arm off spin.

Previous World Cups

This is Ireland's World Cup debut.

Prediction

Ireland to defeat a hapless Zimbabwe in their opening match, and to finish 12th overall.

Ireland World Cup Squad

Trent Johnston (captain), Kyle McCallan, Andre Botha, Jeremy Bray, Ken Carroll, Peter Gillespie, David Langford-Smith, John Mooney, Paul Mooney, Eoin Morgan, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, William Porterfield, Boyd Rankin, Andrew White

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