Ireland Bid For Jamaica Repeat
Ireland return to Sabina Park in Jamaica to take on the West Indies in the first Twenty20 International later today, hoping to make it a happy hunting ground once again.
In 2007, they memorably beat Pakistan by three wickets during the World Cup, a result which helped them qualify for the next stage and achieve a level of exposure and support which they have built on since.
Now they begin their final preparations for the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh with a brace of games against the reigning champions as well as a One-Day International.
Captain William Porterfield says that returning to Jamaica makes it impossible for him not to remember that day in 2007.
"For many, that St Patrick's Day win was where it really all began," he said.
"It's hard not to think of that game without smiling. It was just the most incredible fairlytale story that day.
"It had all the elements of a real thriller, with us bowling and catching superbly. We then lost early wickets before Niall (O'Brien) played the innings of his life to get us close.
"Trent (Johnston) then sealed the win with a six to spark the mother of all parties!
"Fast forward seven years and we've come a long way. It's been trophy after trophy as we've dominated Associate cricket and qualified for every global event since then.
"If there's one regret, it's that we haven't recorded even more wins against Full Members. We've gotten ourselves in some very strong positions but faltered at the last moment.
"That's something we're keen to rectify, hopefully starting this week in the games against West Indies."
That won't be an easy task. They face a strong side as the West Indies have recalled Chris Gayle and Darren Sammy, who both missed the recent NAGICO Super50 tournament in which Ireland competed due to injuries.
Marlon Samuels also returns and the players in the squad they face will all be heading to Bangladesh to defend the ICC WT20 title they won in Sri Lanka two years ago.
And captain Sammy says they are using the matches as part of their preparations for the ICC WT20.
"This is the start of the build-up to the ICC World T20 tournament in Bangladesh," he said
"We will have these two matches here in Jamaica and then we will have three more matches in Barbados before we fly out to Bangladesh to defend our world title.
"Since we arrived here in Jamaica we had two training sessions – in our familiar conditions – and everyone looks ready for the start.
"Ireland have a good team and we can’t take them lightly. We have to make sure we play like world champions and make a statement," he added.
"We have a lot of respect for all oppositions we play. We have to start the ball rolling with the right frame of mind.
"Most of the guys have been playing cricket in the NAGICO Super50 and we also have a few guys coming back from injury so everyone should be match-ready."
Former West Indies international Phil Simmons, Ireland's coach, is well aware of the scale of the challenge his side is up against.
"It's certainly going to be difficult but we've put in a lot of hard work and also played five matches over the past few weeks so we're well prepared," he said.
"We've had mixed fortunes in those matches but did have an excellent win against the Windward Islands. It's that sort of form I'll be looking for.
"The batting hasn't really fired for us in the Caribbean although Paul Stirling has been pretty explosive in the last warm-up matches.
"We'll be strengthened by Ed Joyce joining up with the tour party as he's an incredibly experienced campaigner.
"If we can bring our A game to the table, then we'll always have a chance, especially if they don't fire on all cylinders.
"It won't be easy against the World Champions, but we've played excellent Twenty20 cricket in recent months, especially in the closing games of the qualifiers in the UAE in November."
The two sides have met twice before in Twenty20 Internationals, both at the ICC WT20. In 2010, the West Indies won by 70 runs on home soil and in 2012, Ireland posted 129 for six before the game was washed out.
© Cricket World 2014