Thursday 29 March 2007 

England Wary Of Threat From Relaxed Irish

England have prepared for their opening Super Eights match with Ireland on Friday in the same way as they would for any other side, captain Michael Vaughan said on Thursday.

World Cup debutants Ireland tied with Zimbabwe in the group stage before producing a stunning three-wicket win over Pakistan which effectively sent the sub-continent side home.

"First and foremost we respect the Irish because they deserve to be in the Super Eights because they have played good cricket," Vaughan told a news conference.

"We've prepared in exactly the same fashion as we would have done for any other team. There is no pressure on the Irish in any of these Super Eight games so they are going to be a really hard team to beat."

England though have a ready-made spy to help them in "the battle of the British Isles". In-form England opener Ed Joyce was born in Dublin and played for Ireland until 2005.

"The Irish look an organised team," Vaughan added. "We have Ed Joyce in our camp who has given us all the insight. We know a fair deal about the Irish team but I'm sure they know exactly the same amount if not more about our team."

Ireland coach Adrian Birrell is not worried by Joyce's role.

"Ed played for Ireland until 2005 and was brought up with a lot of our players and would know our players very well so I don't think there will be too many secrets," he told Reuters.

"Equally, we've been watching tapes of England from the Champions Trophy so we've seen them a lot more than they've seen us. That will be the case for every team we meet."

SELECTION DILEMMA

Ireland's major worry is the fitness of captain Trent Johnston, who has been struggling with a shoulder injury and missed the West Indies defeat last Friday.

However, the Australian-born quick bowler has said he is 100 percent sure he will play.

England's main selection dilemma is whether to continue with lively medium pace all-rounder Ravi Bopara or bring back spin all-rounder Jamie Dalrymple, who has looked ineffective so far in the West Indies despite the slow wickets.

Fast bowler Liam Plunkett played the first two group games in St Lucia but Sajid Mahmood came in for the Kenya match as England opted for his variable pace on the dull wicket.

England stuttered through the group stage, losing to New Zealand in their first game and missing out on two points for the Super Eights before beating outsiders Canada and Kenya.

They was also hit by a late night drinking scandal with all-rounder Andrew Flintoff stripped of the vice captaincy and banned for the Canada game.

Vaughan said Flintoff was fit for selection after recovering from a virus which curtailed his net session on Tuesday.

Teams (probable):

England - Ed Joyce, Michael Vaughan (captain), Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Jamie Dalrymple, Paul Nixon (wicketkeeper), Sajid Mahmood, James Anderson, Monty Panesar.

Ireland - Jeremy Bray, William Porterfield, Eoin Morgan, Niall O'Brien (wicketkeeper), Andre Botha, Kevin O'Brien, Andrew White, Kyle McCallan, Trent Johnston (captain), Dave Langford-Smith, Boyd Rankin

© Reuters 2007