World is in our hands
WILLIAM Porterfield believes that Ireland's defeat by Papua New Guinea in their final warm-up game ahead of the World Twenty20 Qualifiers in the UAE was a wake-up call for all the top teams in the tournament.
"There will be no easy games and it just emphasised how anyone can beat anyone else in this tournament. There are a lot of dangerous players through various teams and the so-called lesser teams can cause upsets," said the Ireland captain.
The fact that, for the first time, no fewer than six of the 16 teams will go through to the finals in Bangladesh is an extra motivation for so many of the unfancied nations that this time they can mix it with the elite.
Ireland's task, as tournament favourites, is to ensure that they learn from the defeat and turn the game into a good work-out. To that end, Porterfield was not down as he looked ahead to the next fortnight of intensive action.
"We know on paper our hardest games are the first three, but that's only on paper. When we come out of that we have four more games against teams we don't know much about," he said.
"We have played Namibia, Canada and the UAE a lot of times and know their players if not inside out then very well, but then you come up against a team you don't know much about and there is a tendency to slacken off. I wouldn't say that's what happened today (against PNG) but we were never on the money and it showed us if we are not at the top of our game we will get punished. They outbatted and outbowled us today and deserved to win the game."
So can Ireland justify their tag as favourites? Porterfield remains confident but was happy to highlight the strength of the opposition.
"Some people put us as favourites but Afghanistan are playing in their home conditions. We have played them three times in the final in the last three competitions and lead 2-1. So it will not be an easy task," he said.
"Namibia (Ireland's first opponents tomorrow) won seven out of seven in the group stages last time and will be a dangerous team up front, Canada beat Afghanistan in a warm-up game yesterday by seven wickets and have Ashish Bagai back as captain and a key player for them.
"UAE, as the hosts, will not be easy especially as the tournament progresses and the pitches get slower, take more spin and become harder to score on. They have a few decent players who can hit the ball a long way.
"Hong Kong scored 200 yesterday with a lot of sixes so can be classed as a danger and hopefully we are sitting in here in two weeks' time saying the PNG game was a great run-out."
If Ireland win the group they will not have to worry about the placings in the other section as the group winners claim the first two places in the first phase of the finals next March, but any slip-up and they will face a series of play-off games for the remaining four slots. And the teams who emerge from that group will be even stronger than Ireland's first seven opponents.
"PNG, as they showed today, have the resources and I'm told they were missing a couple of their key players as well. Then, as well as Afghanistan, there is Holland, Scotland and Kenya so that group is ripe for a lot of upsets," added Porterfield.
"I suppose the PNG win will give every team a belief that every team is beatable but while it is the case you want to improve throughout the tournament we know we'll have to hit the ground running on Friday."