Ireland get chance to improve on T20 form in Dubai tournament
Ireland will get an early chance to improve their form in the shortest format when they take part in a seven-team tournament in Dubai in January.
The dates and schedule have still to be confirmed but the UAE will host the Twenty20 Associate tournament, with Scotland, the Netherlands, Oman, Afghanistan and Hong Kong joining Ireland in what is expected to be a 12-13- day tournament, starting on January 9 or 10.
The only other Associate nation with T20I status is Papua New Guinea but they have turned down an invitation.
The Ireland squad, who were not due to return to action until their nine-match series, across all three formats, against Afghanistan in March, will welcome the interruption to the winter at home but with the next World Twenty20 expected to be brought forward to 2018, it will mean a qualifying tournament next year and, after their performance in both qualifying and at this year's World T20 in India, the players have much to prove.
Indeed, Ireland have lost their last T20 game against all their opponents bar Afghanistan whom they haven't played since the glory year of 2013 when they won the treble in Associate Cricket.
Fast forward three years and they lost to Netherlands and Oman in the World Twenty20, UAE in a warm-up match, Hong Kong at Bready in September and both games against Scotland in their rain-interrupted series last year.
The selectors will meet next Wednesday to select what is likely to be a 15-man squad with CIYMS' returnee Jacob Mulder, who won his first cap against Hong Kong, and Waringstown's Greg Thompson expected to retain their places.
Boyd Rankin and Andrew Balbirnie, who were injured for most of last season, could also make their Ireland comebacks.