Ireland look forward to the global stage at Cricket World Cup

Phil Simmons’s side look to put warm-up losses behind them for West Indies opener

Cricket is wont to putting things in boxes; categorising and breaking down specialist skills and disciplines to the nth degree. And when it comes to Ireland’s third straight participation in the 50-overs World Cup it is hard not to avoid the same approach.

The pessimists, likely to be a growing number after yesterday’s disheartening 179-run warm-up defeat to Scotland, will tell you it’s the end of the line for a side that have punched above their weight ever since a largely amateur squad of players knocked Pakistan out at the pool stages in 2007.

The optimists would be of the mind that this World Cup marks the changing of the guard and that a talented new generation will continue a drive towards eventual Test-match status and further World Cups despite the constant shifting of the parameters by the International Cricket Council.

In many respects, though, this World Cup – the last 14-team tournament – is one for Ireland to adopt the role of realistic opportunist and not get too far ahead of themselves.


Ireland coach Phil Simmons is certainly of that view and he has his squad on message when it comes to next Monday's opener against a West Indies side that have been in a fair deal of turmoil ahead of the tournament, suffering their own embarrassing warm-up defeat by nine-wickets to England.

A victory in the beautiful surroundings of the Saxton Oval in Nelson on the northern tip of New Zealand’s south island is followed by a game against fellow Associate qualifiers United Arab Emirates in Brisbane and two wins would leave Ireland in a strong position to go on and claim a place in the quarter-finals.

Speaking of the game against the team he represented in three World Cups, Simmons said: “It’s a big way to start and as you go along you start thinking that if we can start good here then it just sets us up for the rest of the tournament.”

Past mistakes

Last time out Ireland fluffed their opening lines from a strong position against Bangladesh and also passed up a second opportunity against the Windies and Simmons has been continually drilling home that message to a squad that have been in almost full-time preparation for the World Cup since last October.

“All games are important now, we have to make sure we take our chances early on. If we had beaten Bangladesh the last time and then done the same against the West Indies we would have gone a lot further so we’ve got to know that now and make sure we take that chance when it comes.”

Ireland's tactics going into what looks set to be a high-scoring tournament on the hard summer tracks of both Australia and New Zealand may see batting-strong selections named for setting or chasing the kind of 280-plus par scores that will be required, with Middlesex's Andrew Balbirnie having put his hand up with some fine form with the bat in the build-up.

With the retirement of Trent Johnson, and Boyd Rankin having departed for England, Ireland will have two relatively inexperienced new-ball bowlers at this World Cup.

The loss of Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh to injury saw Max Sorensen get a call that many thought he deserved in the first place and he looks set to make the most of the opportunity, having been one of the few seam bowlers to impress in the defeat to Scotland.

Huge step up

Craig Young will likely take the second new ball and although the 24-year-old has made a great start to his international career with 16 wickets in his first six One-Day Internationals he faces a huge step up in his career against Test-class batsmen.

The pace-off change bowlers like Alex Cusack, Kevin O'Brien and John Mooney and spinners George Dockrell, Paul Stirling and Andrew McBrine are the players that possess the key to Ireland managing to restrict opposition totals during the tournament.

Key also will be Ireland's fielding and from their first World Cup in 2007 it has been a crucial part of the game plan, with skipper William Porterfield setting the tone. And with a settled batting line-up that includes destructive hitters such as Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien and with the likes of Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien coming off big seasons in county cricket, Ireland have the armoury to chase down the kind of targets that will come in this tournament.

Miracle of Bangalore

They’ve done it before of course, with Kevin O’Brien’s World Cup record 50-ball century helping chase down a target of 328 and complete the miracle of Bangalore against England four years ago and the all-rounder can’t wait for the bright lights to shine again.

“You can look forward to us playing good cricket, certainly enjoying playing on a global stage again. I think that’s when we play our best cricket is when we go and play with a smile on our face.”

Ever the optimist.

Emmet Riordan

Emmet Riordan

Emmet Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist