Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Irish frustrated in the build-up to ICC World Cup

Ireland coach Phil Simmons and captain William Porterfield now turn their attentions to the World Cup

Ireland can start preparing for a third successive ICC World Cup but they must still wait eight weeks before their next match.

It remains a case of the haves and the have-nots, even for the first qualifier for Australia and New Zealand in 18 months time.

While the 10 Full Members have a Future Tours Programme with a packed schedule of games between now and February 2015, Ireland must be content to pick up the scraps for meaningful match practice before they go Down Under.

The proposed tour – albeit three matches – by Bangladesh next month is not going to happen and and it will be the one-off game against England at Malahide on Tuesday September 3 before the Ireland squad will be together again.

The remaining two World Cup qualifying games against Scotland take place immediately afterwards, on the Friday and Sunday at Stormont, so at least Phil Simmons will have his best players together for a whole week.

The National Coach reiterated immediately after Tuesday's tie against the Netherlands in Amstelveen which sealed their qualification that, in fairness to the other teams chasing the second automatic slot in the finals, he will select his strongest possible line-up.

The Intercontinental Cup game against the Scots is in Clontarf on September 11-14 but by then the English-based players will have returned to their counties and it will be another two months' wait before the full squad assemble again in the UAE for the World Twenty20 qualifiers.

Ireland will be expected to not only progress to the finals in Bangladesh next March but defend the trophy they won last year.

The days of Ireland just wanting to qualify for the major tournaments have long gone – as both Simmons and captain William Porterfield said on Tuesday, our objective is to win every tournament we go in for.

After the WorldTwenty20 finals, however, Ireland are staring into the abyss with a blank calendar for the 12 months before they compete in what will be their seventh global event.

Fixtures will follow, of course, but it will certainly not be a packed schedule. India are touring England next year and Cricket Ireland are hopeful of a visit but, for now, that is all Ireland can do to get games against the Full Members – wait and hope.

At least, with an ICC World Cup just 18 months away Cricket Ireland, after a meeting with the ECB, are confident no-one will follow Boyd Rankin into England colours before they board the plane for Oz.

Ironically, the two players most at risk of missing the tournament are the two Australians, Trent Johnston and Alex Cusack.

The latter has a persistent groin injury and Johnston, at the age of 39, is finding it takes longer and longer to recover from physically demanding games, with ODIs the most intense of all.

It will be a bonus if the 'old man' makes it and Johnston will be the first to recognise if he is not contributing to the team. He is determined to win a fourth Intercontinental Cup winners' medal, in December, but beyond that, his future must be uncertain. Much like Ireland's countdown to the World Cup.

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