Don’t write us off: Porterfield
Ireland must rely on the old adage that a bad dress rehearsal leads to a good first night because the team that has reached the Super Eights in their first two World Cups are struggling for form as they go into their third.
Phil Simmons’ squad has spent four weeks in the Caribbean ahead of the World Twenty20, which gets under way in Guyana today, but victories, or indeed any sort of consistency from the players, have been elusive. Indeed, from 11 matches played since they arrived in Jamaica they have won just two, drawn one and lost the other eight.
Yes, four of those games were against a near full-strength West Indies side but it will be a full-strength home team which Ireland meet tonight in the second game of the tournament, and if they cannot cause an upset then they will have to beat England on Tuesday to maintain their impressive record on the world stage.
Not that there is any shortage of confidence in the Ireland camp. Their record in 2007 ahead of the 50-over World Cup was underwhelming and last year Ireland failed to win one of their six warm-up games before their first appearance in the World Twenty20. Three years ago they tied with Zimbabwe and, famously, beat Pakistan. Last summer, Bangladesh were turned over in their first tournament match.
Captain William Porterfield, like seven of his team mates tonight, has been involved all the way and says: “Yeah, two out of 11 mightn’t sound the best but you've got to look at the quality of the opposition.
“The mood isn’t down, I can assure you. We've played some smashing cricket at stages, but have struggled to put it all together in one solid team performance . I can see a resemblance to the last time we were in the West Indies. Remember we finished fifth in the World League, but still came to the Caribbean and reached the Super Eight phase.
“The adrenalin rush of playing in the tournament proper will bring out the best in us. We have the ability to cause another shock — don't write us off just yet!”
That was the public statement yesterday. Privately, though, he knows he will need major performances from the majority of his players and a big improvement in form if they are to have any impact on a West Indies side which are on home soil and boosted by the arrival of captain Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the Indian Premier League. None of the three played in the three warm-up games and ODI against Ireland.
Simmons also has a vital decision to make on Andre Botha. When the 34-year-old was selected in the 15-man squad he was seen as a vital member of Ireland’s bowling attack but not only have the wickets dried up, the runs off his bowling have been flowing with a pace in direct contrast to the runs from his own bat. He has taken just five wickets in 30 overs at 35 apiece and scored 54 runs in eight innings at an average of nine!
Even with 130 appearances under his belt, it would be a brave (or foolish) choice for Botha to make the starting line-up tonight. The rest of the team should pick itself with the final decision between Andrew White and Peter Connell.
Probable Ireland team: Porterfield, Stirling, N O’Brien, K O’Brien, Johnston, Cusack, Wilson, Mooney, White, Rankin, Dockrell.
There will be two games each day at the same ground in the World Twenty20 until the semi-finals (on May 13-14) with the final on May 16. New Zealand meet Sri Lanka in the opening match with Ireland v West Indies following at 10pm (BST).
Tomorrow: India v Afghanistan, Bangladesh v Pakistan.
Sunday: India v South Africa, Australia v Pakistan.