ICC World Twenty20 2014 Preview - Ireland
Almost two years ago, the then ICC Chief Executive, Haroon Lorgat, trumpeted that the sport's governing body would be extending the number of teams in the ICC World Twenty20 to 16 from 2014 onwards.
It was a widely acclaimed move that will and has given the Associate nations a greater opportunity to compete on the global stage. There are no arguments there, but the remodelling of the tournament has given Ireland - among others - an additional hurdle to overcome if they want to qualify for the business end of the tournament.
Winning the qualification tournament - as Ireland did in November - is no longer enough to secure a berth alongside the Full Member nations but instead they face the distinct possibility of elimination before the big guns even enter proceedings. However, Phil Simmons is inevitably looking at the benefits of the new structure as his side look to continue their vast and ongoing development.
The Associate nation protagonists aren’t viewing the new group stage as a hindrance but a precursor to the serious business they hope to be part of.
Progression, obviously, depends on whether they can safely negotiate a tricky set of fixtures, starting with Zimbabwe on St. Patrick’s Day (17th March), with any defeat likely to prove fatal.
Ireland are the favourites to qualify from Group B and although they carry the weight of expectation of a growing cricketing public and the onlooking global community, there is no shortage of confidence within the squad after a couple of strong performances in the Caribbean recently, in addition to their Associate clean sweep in 2013.
The retirement of Trent Johnston has left a sizable void in the lower order - this will be their first World Cup without the all-rounder - but there are a couple of promising deputies ready to step in: both Andy McBrine and Stuart Thompson have impressed over the winter and are likely candidates.
On the batting front, the form of captain William Porterfield and Paul Stirling is worrying and while the strength down the order has masked that shortcoming in recent games, it’s sure to be ruthlessly exposed in Bangladesh, especially if they advance to the Super 10.
Left-arm spinner George Dockrell broke onto the international stage during the 2010 edition and is in fine form with the ball, as is nagging medium pacer Alex Cusack, who picked up the man of the series award in the recent fixtures against West Indies.
The slower bowlers are likely to play a key role on the slower Asian surfaces and Ireland have no shortage of guile with the ball.
However, their tournament hopes are expected to hinge on the first game of the campaign, against Zimbabwe - the loser of which will encounter the snags of the expanded structure first hand.
Recent T20I Form & Results
Last five results: LWWW
21st Feb 2014: lost to West Indies by 11 runs in Jamaica
19th Feb 2014: beat West Indies by 6 wickets in Jamaica
30th Nov 2013: beat Afghanistan by 68 runs in Abu Dhabi
16th Nov 2013: beat Canada by 2 runs in Abu Dhabi
Previous Tournament Performances
2009: Ireland’s first appearance at a World Twenty20 proved to be their most successful to date with a six-wicket victory over Bangladesh securing a place in the Super Eight stages, where they were comfortably beaten by New Zealand and Pakistan before running Sri Lanka close in their final game.
2010: After a disappointing loss to West Indies in their first game, any chances of progression were dashed by the Guyana rain. Having restricted England to 120 for eight in the winner takes all clash, Ireland were 14 for one in reply before the heavens opened and the game was abandoned. The point saw England progress and Ireland head home.
2012: Once again, Phil Simmons’ side found themselves on the wrong end of a rain-induced abandonment. Slow off the mark in the opening game of Group B in Colombo saw the Irish slump to defeat to Australia before another no result confirmed their elimination, this time against West Indies.
17th March v Zimbabwe – Sylhet
19th March v UAE – Sylhet
21st March v Netherlands – Sylhet
William Porterfield (captain), Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Andrew McBrine, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, Andrew Poynter, Max Sorensen, James Shannon, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson, Craig Young
© Cricket World 2014