Cricket: Ireland turn sights to World Cup qualification
With last month’s rained off match with Australia behind them, Ireland’s cricketers now return to the serious business of qualifying for the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.
Defeat against Kenya in the first of the double headers against Kenya in February has marked out the one-day internationals against Afghanistan at Clontarf today and tomorrow as Ireland’s most important games of the summer.
There are also bragging rights up for grabs, and after the World Twenty20 thriller in Dubai 14 weeks ago, it is Ireland who are still the team to beat.
The top two from the eight competing teams have booked their passage to Australia, but with two games against the dangerous UAE — currently table toppers with Ireland — and Scotland still to come next year, it is near essential that the number one Associate proves their ranking this week.
There will be at least two changes to the team that won the final by five wickets, with Boyd Rankin injured and Andrew Poynter not in the 14-man squad.
Tim Murtagh, the Middlesex pace bowler who was selected against Australia, is again Rankin’s likely replacement, although Max Sorensen took two Afghan wickets in the Twenty20 qualifying final, including top scorer Mohammad Shahzad, and will be unlucky to miss out this time.
Andrew White is likely to be the other Dubai winner absent this week as National Coach Phil Simmons says ‘same again’ to the team that faced Australia.
The Afghans are set to be without injured lead bowler Hamid Hassan, and skipper Nowroz Manga. But, with eight of the team that qualified for the World Twenty20 finals in Sri Lanka this September, Ireland know they will have to be at their best as they continue to set the standard the other Associates have to reach.