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Simmons and Mooney plotting the downfall of Irish hosts

 

By Ian Callender

It was just like the good old days at Bready yesterday with Phil Simmons, John Mooney, Kevin O'Brien and William Porterfield in conversation and preparing for another international.

It was all friendly and matey, with plenty of laughs, but this evening (4pm) the first two named will be plotting the downfall of Ireland when they take on Afghanistan in the first of this week's three Twenty20 internationals.

Simmons, Ireland's most successful coach, and Mooney, who still hasn't been replaced as a batting all-rounder, are the Afghan head coach and fielding coach respectively, and in charge of the eighth best T20 side in the world.

Ireland are nine places lower and for them they only way is up if they hope join Afghanistan at the World Twenty20 in Australia in two years' time.

The only way to move up the rankings - only the top 10 avoid the qualifying tournament in November next year - is to start winning matches but recent history is against Ireland.

Since the start of last year, Afghanistan have won all five T20 internationals between the teams, with the closest a 17 runs victory in a rain-interrupted game which Ireland finished on 93-9!

Gary Wilson has taken over from Porterfield as T20 captain and he believes that home advantage can close the gap between the teams this week.

"There's been a fair bit of rain here over the last couple of days, so I don't know what the wicket will be like," said Wilson, who confirmed that Tyrone Kane has been added to the squad as seam bowling cover.

"But the squad we've picked, with the seam bowling of David Delany, Josh Little, Boyd Rankin and Peter Chase, there is a lot of good pace there and in our conditions we believe that's the way forward to beating Afghanistan."

Rankin has had a back problem recently so may have to wait for a first ever appearance at the club's new ground, which will put the pressure on Delany - still to make his senior debut - and Little who both suffered in their last T20 action, on Friday, for Ireland Wolves against Bangladesh A.

The Wolves batting - which included most of this week's line-up - impressed in the last two games and Wilson is hoping they can carry on that form, boosted by the arrival of Paul Stirling, who is scoring runs for fun at the minute for Middlesex and has a good record against the Afghans.

No preview of an Afghanistan match, though, can be written without mentioning Rashid Khan, now the world's No 1 T20 bowler and Mujeeb Zadran, the teenage mystery spinner.

At least this time, Wilson knows what to expect.

"I hope the wicket doesn't spin too much, "he said yesterday. "Playing them in Noida or Sharjah (venues of the last two series) is very difficult but we have had a good look at Rashid in recent series and the same with Mujeeb, so hopefully that will stand our batsmen in good stead."

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