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Ireland will not take eye off the ball, insists Ford


Hitting back: Andrew Balbirnie looks to have passed concussion tests
Hitting back: Andrew Balbirnie looks to have passed concussion tests

By Ian Callender

Ireland coach Graham Ford has told his players to be ruthless and is confident there will be no complacency when they face Papua New Guinea in their second match at the World Cup qualifying tournament today.

Less than 48 hours after their crushing victory over Netherlands in Harare, Ireland were expected to have an easier match against the Pacific islanders, who lost their opening game to UAE by 53 runs on Sunday. But the squad have set the bar high.

Ford has yet to see his team lose a match since taking over at the end of last year and insists he is still getting to know the players, but the combination of a new coach and a squad out to impress him has so far proved an unbeatable one.

"The first game of the tournament there is always extra pressure and the Dutch are a dangerous side," said Ford yesterday before optional practice at the Harare Sports Club, the venue for today's game.

"Having lost the toss it was pretty difficult batting first, and there was the potential to be three down after 10 overs and then the jitters could have set in. But the top batsmen did well, we had a few hiccups along the way and I would have liked a few more wickets in hand going into the last few overs.

"But the really pleasing thing was to see the guys go out and… I have witnessed a lot of good energy in the field, but I thought yesterday was exceptional.

"The outfield was bouncy, it was a wet ball and we also produced some very good bowling. So, you go away from the game feeling pretty pleased and proud of the way the guys went about their business."

Will it be just as easy to keep their focus against a team they should beat comfortably?

"There's nothing like positive momentum," continued Ford. "When we have our little chats there's talk about not dropping their guard, making sure they keep their feet on the ground and just focusing on the next game.

"We warn against complacency and from what I'm starting to understand of the lads, there will be none.

"Cricket is a funny game. You only have to look at yesterday's Scotland result (they beat Afghanistan), not a lot of people were expecting that.

"Every side has dangerous players and every game can go the unexpected way. So, there's no way we can drop our guard and we have to be as ruthless as we possibly can."

To that end, Ford is expected to name an unchanged team once again - the only possible switch being if he needs to bring in an extra spinner, although Paul Stirling has proved he is capable of filling that role if required.

"In a competition like this from a tactical and strategic point of view we have to play the best XI for the conditions and what exposes the opposition best," confirmed Ford. "We'll be looking to play our best team and it's going to be very close to what played yesterday.

"Andrew Balbirnie seems fine (after a precautionary visit to hospital during Sunday's game for concussion tests) and has been checked out. He put his hand up to play football but we ruled that out!"

Ireland will hope that Netherlands now win all their remaining group games, so that they can take their two points from yesterday's game through to the Super Six stage and Ford says that is quite possible.

"The Dutch have the ability to win every match, I really believe that," he said. "They have a good seam outfit, a couple of good spinners and dangerous batters.

"In this tournament if your key batter or couple of batters hit a rich vein of form then you have a very successful tournament, but if the couple you are banking on for runs have a lean trot then it doesn't go so well. But Netherlands have the ability to beat the good sides."

Just not Ireland!

Belfast Telegraph


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