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Simmons expects Ireland to push on

By Ian Callender

It was significant that, when it was put to Phil Simmons after Ireland's dramatic last ball victory over Zimbabwe on Monday that there were still two big games to come, his response was "there is a whole tournament to come, I think".

The National Coach was already anticipating an extended stay in Bangladesh – for the moment, Ireland have only two more confirmed fixtures – but having won the 'big' first round game, Simmons is expecting nothing less than two more wins and join the leading eight Full Members in the second round next week.

Not that there will be any chance of complacency in the Ireland squad.

They may have already beaten UAE twice in the qualifying competition in Abu Dhabi last November but, because of the ICC's convoluted format to try and get all the Full Members into the Super 10s, Ireland must beat the Emirates for a third time in the competition this afternoon, in Sylhet, to take another step towards the stage where they are not wanted.

"We knew that the first game is obviously the hardest (first round) game, so I think that's why there was a little bit more nerves involved than usual," said Simmons.

Paul Stirling, man of the match in Monday's nail-biting finale, agreed it was a vital win but added: "Winning the match just makes the next two even more important," he said.

"We've beaten them before but that was four months ago, so now we've got to do it again, and beat our fellow Associates, who have every right to come out and win matches."

The biggest selection decision for Simmons is whether to persevere with Alex Cusack, who ended up with Ireland's most expensive figures in T20 history (1-53) on Monday, having conceded 46 in three wicketless overs against Bangladesh last week.

With Stuart Thompson unused as a bowler against Zimbabwe, Ireland could still afford to leave out Cusack and bolster their batting by bringing back the experience of Niall O'Brien into the middle order.

If he is there at the finish he will surely cope better than the players left for the final two overs of the last two games when Ireland managed just five singles against Bangladesh and six against Zimbabwe.

The first game was long lost and the second proved just enough. A third time may not be so lucky.

Belfast Telegraph


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