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Weather puts dampener on Ireland's cup preparations


By Ian Callender

There was more than a hint of irony that, after Ireland's game against Zimbabwe had been abandoned yesterday without a ball bowled, the groundstaff were watering the square under the afternoon sun.

Unfortunately, a sodden outfield was the problem at the Queen's Sports Club when the umpires took their decision two hours after the scheduled start, and it leaves Ireland with just one more warm-up game, against Scotland tomorrow, before the World Cup qualifying tournament begins.

William Porterfield, back in charge after missing the last two games on their South African tour with a swollen knee, had no complaints about the abandonment and is happy with Ireland's pre-tournament preparation.

"The outfield was heavy, the water table was already high so from a safety aspect the right decision was made," said the captain. "Disappointed not to get a game but they made the right call.

"Still, there are great facilities here, the nets were available, it wasn't raining, so it's been a productive day. We'd have liked to get 100 overs in but we've had good preparation in South Africa over the past fortnight and a decent net session today."

Ominously, if there is much more rain in the next 24 hours - and, remarkably, this tournament is going ahead in the rainy season in Zimbabwe - it could be a case of deja vu because there will again be no play tomorrow if there is any chance of the outfield being damaged ahead of the opening qualifier game here on Sunday. But again, Porterfield is philosophical.

"We've had a very good run in South Africa, and one of those turned into a rain-affected game, so if it happens again in the tournament, hopefully that will stand us in good stead," he added. "Hopefully the rain clears up before the weekend but if you are going to lose a game (to the weather), you would rather lose a warm-up game."

The skipper confirmed that Ireland would have used only 11 players - Zimbabwe, as is their option in warm-up games, would have involved 13 - and, unless circumstances dictate otherwise, it will be the same plan against the Scots.

"I would rather play 11 so that all the lads can play their roles and scenarios, rather than restrict bowlers to six or seven overs," added Porterfield.

"I'm pretty happy where everything is at and in five days everybody will be ready to go."

Indeed, if yesterday's game had have been Netherlands, their first Group A opponents on Sunday, all 15 in the squad were available for selection.

As for the hosts, Ireland cannot play them again until the first match of the Super Sixes - if both qualify - and by then they will be battle-hardened and based in Harare.

Frustratingly for both sides, barely a mile away, Scotland and Papua New Guinea - Ireland's second group opponents - played a full match at the BAC ground, with the Scots, set 197, easing home by seven wickets with 14 overs to spare with an unbeaten 101 from Matt Cross.

The result of the day, however, was in Harare where Afghanistan recovered from 71-8 to post 163-9 in 35 overs and then bowl out tournament favourites - and Ireland's third group opponents - West Indies for 110, with Dawlat Zadran taking a hat-trick.

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