Ireland always seem to perform better than they perhaps ought to in World Cups and this one in Sri Lanka should be no different. Following an excellent performance in the 2011 50-over World Cup, also on the subcontinent, they will be hoping to further press their long-stated aim to be awarded Full Member status with another strong showing this time around.
Unfortunately, they will have to make do without the services of key all-rounder John Mooney, who was ruled out with a fractured finger. He has been replaced by young all-rounder Stuart Thompson.
Ireland should be helped by the presence of former Australian bowling coach Craig McDermott, who has been recruited on a consultancy basis and should be able to provide extensive information about his former employers, who Ireland face in their first match. McDermott clearly rates Ireland's chances in the tournament and said, "If they [Ireland] play to their ability, which they have in the past in T20s, they'll give Australia and West Indies a good run for their money."
Ireland's squad - each of whom are writing a blog during the tournament - is packed full of all-rounders, with all but four of its 15 members more than capable of playing a role with the ball.
William Porterfield and Paul Stirling - the first of the all-rounders - are likely to take their places at the top of the order ahead of the likes of Niall O'Brien, Gary Wilson and Ed Joyce. Then will come the rest of the all-rounders, led by Kevin O'Brien and followed by any of Alex Cusack, Andrew White, Stuart Thompson or Nigel Jones, with the seam attack led by Boyd Rankin, playing his final matches in an Ireland shirt, and the evergreen Trent Johnston.
George Dockrell will have to shoulder much of the spin burden after off-spinner Albert van der Merwe was omitted from the squad, and will have to rely on the part-time spin of Paul Stirling and Andrew White as back-up.
The beauty of Twenty20 cricket, of course, is that it is very much an on-the-day sport and, while you wouldn't expect Ireland to beat Australia or West Indies over a five-match series, they are more than capable of beating them in a one-off encounter.
After all, due to the complexities of the ICC's ranking system, Ireland were, albeit briefly, ranked above Australia in Twenty20 cricket earlier this month. Even if Ireland don't win a match in the tournament, it is certain that they will be no easy pushovers for either of their two Group B opponents.
It is hard to pick just a couple of players from Ireland's talented squad, but George Dockrell and Niall O'Brien are surely two who are guaranteed to perform well in Sri Lanka. Dockrell, a young slow left-arm spin bowler, has had an outstanding 2012: he is Ireland's leading wicket-taker in T20Is this year with 14 wickets; was the most economical bowler in this year's Under-19 World Cup of anyone who bowled more than a single over; and has led Somerset's spin attack for much of the 2012 county season.
Niall O'Brien, meanwhile, has been in good form for his county Northamptonshire of late, and struck 182 in their recent County Championship match against Glamorgan. O'Brien is a key figure for Ireland, not only with the bat and with the gloves, but also cajoling his team-matches on the field, and now, at 30, is one of the side's more experienced campaigners.
One To Watch
Tim Murtagh only recently decided to throw in his lot with Ireland - he qualified through his Irish grandfather - and only made his debut for them in June of this year. He has since played three matches for them but has failed to take a wicket. A bustling swing bowler, Murtagh is the epitome of the English county pro and has picked up 59 wickets for Middlesex in the County Championship this season, despite being used sparingly in limited-overs cricket. He was, however, part of the Middlesex side that won the 2008 Twenty20 Cup - taking 20 wickets from 13 matches.
21st June: lost to Bangladesh by 2 wickets in Belfast
20th June: lost to Bangladesh by 1 run in Belfast
18th June: lost to Bangladesh by 71 runs in Belfast
24th March: beat Afghanistan by 5 wickets in Dubai*
23rd March: beat Netherlands by 7 wickets in Dubai*
22nd March: beat Canada by 10 wickets in Dubai*
18th March: beat Scotland by 17 runs in Dubai*
14th March: beat Kenya by 10 wickets in Dubai*
24th February: beat Kenya by 2 runs in Mombasa
23rd February: beat Kenya by 8 wickets in Mombasa
22nd February: beat Kenya by 6 wickets in Mombasa
*matches were in ICC World T20 Qualifier, only matches awarded T20 International status shown.
Previous Tournament Performances:
2007: Didn't qualify having finished fifth in the qualifying tournament
2009: Finished fourth out of four in their Super Eight group, having beaten Bangladesh in the group stage.
2010: Failed to progress from Group D - match against England was rained off.
19th September: v Australia in Colombo
24th September: v West Indies in Colombo
Batsmen: William Porterfield (captain, LHB), Ed Joyce (LHB), Niall O'Brien (LHB/WK) Andrew White (RHB/OB), Gary Wilson (RHB/WK).
All-rounders: Alex Cusack (RHB/RMF), Trent Johnston (RHB/RMF), Nigel Jones (RHB/RMF), Kevin O'Brien (RHB/RMF), Paul Stirling (RHB/OB), Stuart Thompson (LHB/RMF).
Bowlers: George Dockrell (RHB/SLA), Tim Murtagh (LHB/RMF), Boyd Rankin (LHB/RFM), Max Sorensen (RHB/RFM).
© Cricket World 2012
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