Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Simmons already looking ahead

Phil Simmons', left, Ireland host Pakistan in a two-match series in Dublin, which begins on Thursday

Coach Phil Simmons has admitted this week's RSA Insurance one-day international series against Pakistan is not the main priority of a summer in which Ireland will bid to secure their place at a third consecutive World Cup.

Ireland host Pakistan in a two-match series in Dublin, which begins on Thursday, having never beaten a full-member nation at home. It is an unlikely statistic given Ireland's giant-killing at World Cups - which includes surprising Pakistan in Jamaica six years ago.

While Simmons concedes claiming a big scalp at home is long overdue, ensuring his side's place at the 2015 World Cup in Australia is his primary objective, and he said: "I think we've got to recognise in a big summer the most important games are the four games we play against Scotland and Holland because that takes us to a World Cup."

He added: "We've put that as a higher priority than this, but we want to win games like this."

With the top two automatically securing a place Down Under there is little room for error and Simmons admits he would take wins in those games over success this week.

He added: "It is time to start winning games against full member team anywhere in the world. We haven't beaten a high-class full-member here at all. It is about time we start. We have to show how much we have improved since the last international team was here."

The most recent full-member nation to visit Dublin was England two years ago when, captained by Irish-born batsman Eoin Morgan, they escaped with an 11-run win in a rain-affect contest.

That narrow reverse followed on from arguably Ireland's finest moment - when they stunned the English at the 2011 World Cup - and heightened debate as to whether they were ready to become a full-member nation.

That talk has slowed as Ireland's presence on the international stage has been reduced - last year's only home ODI against Australia in Belfast was a wash-out while hardly a ball was bowled of South Africa A's tour. Work off the field has, however, moved at pace with the introduction of a new professional domestic competition this season.

The three-team RSA Interprovincial Series is a cornerstone to any bid for Test status - with the ICC contributing £500,000 a season - while Cricket Ireland also plan to apply for first-class status for the competition in 2015.