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Wilson aims to mark his special day with victory

 

By Ian Callender

Gary Wilson plays his 250th game for Ireland today and he could hardly have hand-picked a better match - a World Cup qualifier against tournament favourites West Indies with a place in the Super Six for the winners.

No pressure then!

But Wilson insists this is a confident squad with two wins in the bank and perfectly capable of repeating their 2015 World Cup success in Nelson, New Zealand.

"The team have good memories of playing the West Indies and had some good results against them, not only in ODIs but T20s as well," said the 32-year-old. "They're obviously a threat but we have a formula we want to play to and if we take care of that, hopefully the results take care of themselves.

"You could almost say the tournament starts now and we have to perform in our next two group games (they also play UAE on Monday).

"If we play to our potential we have a camp which is very confident that we are one of the top two sides in this tournament.

"Twelve months ago, I honestly don't think I would have been able to say that, but the way the group is set up we are in a good place."

If Ireland, as expected, field the same team as the one that defeated Papua New Guinea in their last game on Tuesday, no fewer than nine of the line-up which lived the dream of beating West Indies at the last World Cup will be in action again - the opposition will have four and, on paper, a significantly weaker side.

Admittedly, any one of the quartet - Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Kemar Roach and captain Jason Holder - are capable of winning the game on their own, but Ireland have just as many match-winners themselves and, it could be argued, are even stronger three years on with Boyd Rankin back and Tim Murtagh the other different face, having missed the last World Cup through injury.

That there has been a series of shock results in the first week of the tournament also hasn't gone unnoticed in the Irish camp.

"I don't think anyone would have called Afghanistan losing their first three matches, but they're not out of the competition yet," added Wilson. "Fair play to Scotland, they've started very well (winning all three), but everything is still in our hands.

"We've started two from two, West Indies the same, and there's everything to play for.

"We just have to look after ourselves. If Holland had beaten UAE (on Thursday) they would have been probably guaranteed to go through and we would have taken their points into the Super Six, but if we keep winning everything will be okay.

"Everyone has contributed at some stage and, while it wasn't ideal going down to the last over against Papua New Guinea, it was good to win again in another pressure situation and that should stand us in good stead down the line."

As for his own achievement, when he follows William Porterfield and Kevin O'Brien to the 250-game landmark at the Harare Sports Club, he admits it will be a proud day.

"The two guys ahead of me I've played with my whole career, since we were 13-years-old. It's always nice to reach a milestone but give me a win any day over a milestone," said Wilson.

"The hundred at Clontarf against Netherlands (in 2010) was special but my favourite game was actually against Zimbabwe at Hobart in 2015.

"It was a topsy-turvy game, quite surreal in that we had to win it to stay in the World Cup yet it was our third win and we were on the crest of a wave. When that catch went up and Purdy (Porterfield) took it to win the match, it was unbelievable, and my wife was there with all the families in the stands."

No wonder it's an experience the Derbyshire professional wants to relive in England next year, as the toughest ever qualifying competition continues.

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