Cricket World Cup: Botha bang in form for Ireland
Ireland are preparing to go into their opening match of the World Cup without Alex Cusack.
The all-rounder who plays his club cricket with Clontarf has not attended training this week and although he was set to resume today, it is likely to be too little, too late for him to make the starting line-up for the game against Bangladesh in Mirpur (start 0830GMT).
Whether his absence is a major blow will be known only once the match is completed but the bonus for Ireland is the recent form of Andre Botha, with both bat and ball.
Both of Ireland’s experienced all-rounders fulfil similar roles — top order batsman and ‘death’ bowler — and while Cusack was in everyone’s first choice XI when the squad left home four weeks ago, Botha has put his hand up in the warm-up matches to show that the 35-year-old is not on a farewell tour to just make up the numbers.
His innings of 79 against Zimbabwe last week may not have been the best of the day but it was Ireland’s highest and he took two wickets in his final spell while runs leaked at the other end.
Ireland fielded under the lights in the Shere Banlga Stadium last night — while hoping they won’t have to do it tomorrow.
The team that wins the toss seems certain to field first because of the evening dew and also the statistical factor — 13 of the last 16 floodlit games here have been won by the team batting second.
The lights should be the least of Ireland’s worries, though. The crowd will be a seething, baying mass of 35,000.
The last time Ireland played here, they where whitewashed in a three-match one-day series.
But there are many reasons to be positive tomorrow evening. There will be only five survivors from that series and the preparation has been chalk and cheese.
Then they flew in from UAE with only two days in the nets and no practice matches.
This time they will have been in Bangladesh for eight days and while they still haven’t played a match in the country, there will be no excuses about lack of preparation or time spent in the middle.
Also the manpower is significantly stronger. For Reinhardt Strydom at opener, read the prodigiously talented Paul Stirling. Instead of Eoin Morgan, who averaged 17 in the series, there is Ed Joyce — not a bad replacement! And for Dave Langford Smith, this time there is Boyd Rankin. Admittedly Kyle McCallan is almost irreplaceable but, in 18-year-old George Dockrell, Ireland have a slow bowler who could be around for just as long as his illustrious predecessor.
In fact so strong is the current squad that even without Cusack, National Coach Phil Simmons is considering going into the game without Gary Wilson, one of his seven county professionals.
Both Andrew White and John Mooney have outperformed Wilson in the warm-ups. Ireland, the last team into action, are, in the words of White “champing at the bit” to get on the field. “The delay, means the guys are very keen to get out there and hopefully we will hit the ground running,” said the Instonians all-rounder.
Possible Ireland team: W Porterfield, P Stirling, E Joyce, N O’Brien, A Botha, K O’Brien, A White, J Mooney, T Johnston, G Dockrell, B Rankin.
Shahid Afridi picked up five wickets as Pakistan thrashed Kenya by 205 runs in their World Cup Group A match in Hambantota yesterday.
Afridi returned the best World Cup figures by a Pakistan bowler with his spell of five for 16 off eight overs as Kenya were bundled out for 112 in 33.1 overs.
Leg-spinner Afridi tore apart Kenya's middle and lower order after half-centuries from Misbah-ul-Haq, Younus Khan and the Akmal brothers helped Pakistan post 317 for seven.