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Ireland can beat Pakistan, says Phil Simmons

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Ireland head coach Phil Simmons and captain William Porterfield keep a firm grip on the RSA Insurance ODI trophy

Ireland head coach Phil Simmons and captain William Porterfield keep a firm grip on the RSA Insurance ODI trophy

INPHO/James Crombie

Ireland head coach Phil Simmons and captain William Porterfield keep a firm grip on the RSA Insurance ODI trophy

Phil Simmons accepts the eyes of the cricketing world are on Ireland when they play the top Test nations but he refuses to put the team under pressure.

Ireland went into the first of two one-day internationals against Pakistan at Clontarf this morning expecting to beat the sixth ranked team in the world but, no matter the result, Simmons says it is unlikely to have any bearing on Ireland’s hopes of moving up the world ladder, at least in the short term.

“Our performances are more magnified than the lower half of the Full Members so a win against Pakistan, who are one of the favourites for the Champions Trophy (in England next month), will stand us in good stead with the ICC, but they know where we’re at.

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“We don’t need to send out a message to them,” said Simmons.

“We just have to keep winning games and whatever they take from that we have no control over. Having said that, it is time to start beating the big teams.

“We have never beaten a high-class Full Member at home.”

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Clontarf, the venue for both games in this series — the second is on Sunday — should give Ireland their best opportunity.

They may have lost their two previous games here, against England in 2011 and Australia the previous year, but by wafer-thin margins and the players know that on both occasions they were in winning positions.

A close look at the pitch yesterday would have reminded everyone of the Sabina Park surface in 2007 when Ireland famously defeated today’s opponents at the World Cup finals, the game in which, it is accepted, Ireland made their mark on the world scene.

They haven’t looked back since but now is the time to move on, as captain William Porterfield admitted.

He said: “We have to be winning games like these in Ireland and ticking all the boxes that the ICC have marked and show it’s not just at big tournaments where we are going to produce the occasional win.

“It’s more difficult after a big break (this is the first time the Ireland squad have been together in nine weeks) but it’s a matter of turning up and being in as good a nick as we possibly can and putting in the performance.”

With world-famous stars such as Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Misbah-ul-Haq in the Pakistan line-up, players and coach alike accept that Ireland will have to play at the peak of their powers and hope the visitors

have an off-day if they are to claim victory.

But the way Pakistan captain Misbah was talking at yesterday’s press conference there will no complacency from the tourists.

“We know Ireland have a good side, capable of surprising the big teams, and we are aware of that and want to go 100 per cent and play our best,” said Misbah, who also promised Ireland the ultimate challenge.

“Winning is more important than giving all the squad a game so we will be playing at full strength.”

The Ireland team was certain to show one change from the last one-day international against the UAE in Sharjah, John Mooney banned for his Twitter rant for this game, with Tim Murtagh, who has taken 30 wickets in five county championship matches including a career best 10-77 last week, the obvious replacement.

Whether Max Sorensen, as another specialist bowler, keeps his place or Ireland go for the experience of Andrew White, as the extra batsman and a third spinner, is the one decision which Simmons and Porterfield must make.

l The Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 game between Instonians and Lisburn, scheduled for Shaw’s Bridge this evening, has been postponed until Monday.

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