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ICC move throws Irish new World Cup lifeline

Ireland are back on course to play in the next World Cup Finals after the ICC's Chief Executive's Committee recommended a qualifying tournament ahead of the 2015 event in Australasia.

The recommendation has still to go before the full ICC board, which took the decision in April not to have a qualifying tournament, but this should be the final voice of persuasion (and reason) to help the 10 Full Members' chairmen change their minds.

That decision is likely to come tomorrow, the second day of the board meeting in Hong Kong and then there is only the format and the number of teams to be determined. That could happen as early as Thursday, when the full council meets.

It is still likely that it will be a 10-team World Cup, four less than in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh this year, and six less than when the West Indies hosted the tournament in 2007, Ireland's entrance onto the world stage. But Ireland - and the other 94 Associate countries - have never asked for any more teams. They just want the chance to take part and a qualification tournament, from which they emerged on both previous occasions, will do them just fine.

The conclusions on the 2015 World Cup debate by the CEC, which includes Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom as one of the three Associate representatives, were revealed in just one sentence: "The CEC recommended that there should be a qualification process for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 but did not make a recommendation to the ICC Executive Board on the number of teams that should compete in the event to be held in Australia and New Zealand."

When the ICC Board made their original decision, it was met with worldwide criticism and after ICC president Sherad Pawar asked his board to reconsider at this week's annual conference, his chief executive Haroon Lorgat and West Indian great Clive Lloyd, chairman of the influential Cricket Committee, also added their voices in support of a qualifying tournament.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement from ICC yesterday, it was confirmed that Namibia have "failed to arrive in time" to play their Intercontinental Cup match against Ireland at Stormont.

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Cricket Ireland would be entitled to claim the points but, interestingly, the last line of the statement says that "following due consideration and consultation, the ICC has given the two participating home boards the opportunity to propose an amicable agreement as to how best to deal with the I-Cup fixture and any other relevant matters."

One possible solution which would avoid any unnecessary travel is to play the game in the UAE in March when both teams are in the country for the World Twenty20 qualifying tournament.

Meanwhile, just 48 hours after suffering their heaviest defeat of recent times, North Down must return to The Lawn tonight (6.15pm) for their Twenty20 Cup semi final against Waringstown.

Obus Pienaar, who hit 164 in Sunday's League game, was out early in both T20 group games and with the final not due to take place until July 26, the week after he is due to leave The Lawn, this is the big-hitting South African's last chance to strut his stuff at the top of the order for the Villagers.

The second semi final, between Downpatrick and Instonians, takes place at The Meadow tomorrow night.

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