Ireland ready to seal World Cup place
The day that Cricket Ireland has been counting down to for the last two years has finally arrived, the chance to qualify for their third ICC World Cup finals.
It has actually arrived two months ahead of schedule. It was expected to be the two games against Scotland in Belfast in September which would see the Ireland celebrations but, because of their almost unstoppable progress (nine wins and a no result) in the first 11 matches, they can officially start tonight at the VRA ground in Amstelveen if they beat the Netherlands.
For the last six years that has been a gimme – 13 straight wins for Ireland since their World Cricket League defeat in Nairobi in 2007 – and such is the confidence and talent in this Ireland squad that it would be a major shock if that sequence does not continue today.
Not that anyone in the squad would come out and say as much. Enjoying a deserved day off between their 88 runs victory over the Dutch in the World Cup qualifier on Sunday, today is just another game for the team that has dominated Associate cricket for the last six years and the objective is the same as each of the 182 games under the stewardship of Phil Simmons – winning.
Simmons took over the team immediately after Ireland's first World Cup campaign in 2007, succeeding Adi Birrell, who has just been appointed assistant coach to his native South Africa.
It was a hard act to follow for the West Indian all-rounder, with the team having knocked Pakistan out of the competition before going on to beat Bangladesh. His typical Trinidadian laid-back attitude took a bit of getting used to but the players were in left no doubt if they got anything wrong.
He has repeatedly drummed into his players that if they stand still, the rest will catch up. His mantra has certainly worked. He has seen Ireland lose only 11 of the 94 games against fellow Associates.
And, of course, they beat England at the last World Cup finals in 2011. It was a point stressed yesterday by his captain, William Porterfield, who leads the side for the 122nd time today.
Asked if it was easy to keep the same application with the buffer of a four points cushion at the top of the table, Porterfield said: "We knew we were coming here needing two wins to qualify for the World Cup finals. So, no issue for us. We know if we win tomorrow we will not only qualify but win the group and that's what we will be aiming to do."
And said so matter-of-factly that he knows no matter what side is selected Ireland will be the 11th team, following the Full Members, who will be on a plane to Australia 2015.
Tonight: Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup semi final (6pm): Lisburn v Civil Service North.