Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

World Cricket League: Simmons expects Afghans to triumph

National coach Phil Simmons says that Afghanistan are favourites to win the World Cricket League which gets underway in Holland tomorrow.

Ireland may be the defending champions after winning the World Cup qualifier in South Africa 14 months ago, but an under-strength Ireland squad has put Simmons in defensive mode for the first time since he took over as coach three years ago.

Without four county professionals plus the injured Andre Botha, Ireland had won only one of their last 10 competitive games going into yesterday’s warm-up clash with Canada in Utrecht. And even an encouraging six-wicket victory, dominated by a century from Paul Stirling, did little to change Simmons’ mood.

He is viewing each of the six matches over the next 10 days as banana skins.

“Afghanistan are the favourites because nobody has beaten them in the last six months at this level,” he said.

“I never look at not winning but it would not be serious if we do not win this tournament. It will just show that we have a lot of work to do before February (and the start of the World Cup finals).

“The Dutch being at home should help them. They have been playing the Pro 40 (competition in England) without their best team, they know their wickets and I’m glad to be playing them last.”