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Ireland's confidence is high ahead of their World bid

By Ian Callender

Ireland's last experience of Twenty20 cricket in tournament play was the, still, scarcely believable chase by the Netherlands which ended their interest in the world finals in Bangladesh in March last year before the elite nations had even played.

William Porterfield's side had posted 189 for four - their fifth highest total in 72 games in the shortest format - leaving the Dutch not just the seemingly impossible task of winning the match to reach the second stage, but to do it in 14.2 overs.

With nothing to lose they scored 193 for four in 13.5 overs!

Eight of that Ireland team, including five of the six bowlers used that day in Sylhet, are in the squad which begins their second successive defence of the World Twenty20 Qualifiers tomorrow, confident of proving that defeats like that happen only once.

But it was a match which proved that in the helter-skelter of white-ball cricket - now being mirrored in the 50-over game - anything can happen.

It all means that the Ireland squad, despite being the number one seeds, will be taking nothing for granted as they start out on the 16-day journey which should take them to the finals in India in March.

The 14 teams are divided into two groups, seven of them playing in Stormont and Bready and the other half in Scotland with the winners of the groups going straight into the semi-finals and assured of their place in the finals.

The second, third and fourth teams at the end of the group stage then travel to Dublin for play-off games when all but two of them will join two of the Full Members in the first stage of the finals.

Ireland have been given the easiest group, the emerging nations of Nepal, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea seeded to join them in the knock-out stages, with the weather likely to be their most dangerous opponent.

Having said that, the pace bowlers have much to prove after taking only eight wickets while conceding 317 runs in 34 overs in the two games against Scotland last month but that was a squad without four of their leading batsmen and the return of Porterfield, Paul Stirling, Niall O'Brien and Gary Wilson - all in form - should give the attack more runs to play with.

However for Craig Young, Graeme McCarter, Tyrone Kane and Stuart Poynter it will be their first senior action in a major tournament and for Young in particular a chance to put the disappointment of travelling round Australia and New Zealand at the World Cup, without playing a game, behind him.

"I am focused on this tournament. We didn't play to our strengths against Scotland last month and it gave us a real kick up the backside. I expect us to hit the ground running," said Young.

The tournament actually begins today in Scotland.

The co-hosts are first into action against UAE, with Afghanistan facing the Netherlands in the afternoon, both in Edinburgh.

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