Ireland eye top spot in world qualifying group
Ireland have been given the perfect incentive to top their qualifying group at the World Twenty20 in India in March with the prize a return to the scene of their greatest triumph.
Ireland have been drawn in the same group as India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand with the games against India and Australia to be played in Bangalore, where they famously defeated England at the 2011 World Cup.
However, before Ireland reach that stage, they must finish top of a preliminary group which includes Bangladesh, Netherlands and Oman and, as they infamously proved two years ago at the last World Twenty20, even two wins may not be enough.
And that is where the difficulty starts for Ireland because William Porterfield's side crashed out to the Dutch last year and again in the qualifying tournament in Belfast last July while Bangladesh, as the Full Member nation, are favourites to win the group and Ireland have never beaten them in the sub-continent.
All three qualifying games, on March 9, 11 and 13, plus the two-warm-up games, on March 4 and 6, against Hong Kong - another of Ireland's conquerors last summer - and Zimbabwe will be played in Dharamsala, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The group winners then move on to play Pakistan on March 16, in Kolkata, the biggest stadium in the world outside Australia, before returning there, via Bangalore, to play New Zealand on March 26.
A second Ireland squad will also be in India in March, taking part in the women's tournament which is played simultaneously and, indeed, if Ireland's men reach the Super 10 both teams' last two games will be played at the same time. The women are in the same group as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Sri Lanka.