Niall O&#39Brien Relishing World Twenty20 Challenge

Northants and Ireland wicket-keeper Niall O’Brien is relishing the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers in Belfast. Did he enjoy the Twenty20 form of the game? "This year I’ve really enjoyed the format, probably because I’ve played more of a leading role than when I was at Kent. I’m opening the batting and keeping wicket, and have been right in the middle of the action. I’ve had some good success with Northants, and am enjoying my cricket. "Twenty20 is a great concept, which has really caught the imagination of the English public, and it’s great to see so many kids at the games. I’m sure it will be a success in Belfast at the start of August and that the fans will get behind the team and create a unique atmosphere." Having been a major success at the top of the order with Northants, did he hope to continue in the opening role with Ireland? "I would hope to be opening the batting, as that’s where I’ve had my success this year. I’ll chat with Phil (Simmons) and William Porterfield, and see what role they have in mind for me." As one of the few Irish players with experience in this format, what advice would he have for his team mates? "I can bring the experience I’ve gained with Northants to the Ireland set up. In this form of the game, you’ve got to have very definite plans and strategise. You just can’t turn up and play. Every has an important role to play, and it’s vital you have bowlers who can take wickets up front, and bowl well at the death. The spinners are also vital in the middle spell as well. "In the batting you’ve got to get the mix right. You need players who can strike the boundaries, but also players who keep the scoreboard ticking over. We’ve got a lot of talented and experienced cricketers, although maybe not in this format of the game. That’s where the County players will be crucial." Who did he see progressing from Ireland’s Group? "Our group games are against Scotland and Bermuda, and as it’s a new format for most of the Associates, it’s hard to call who will go through. Games against Scotland are traditionally tight, and I expect this time to be no different. They have good hitters of the ball in their side, and a wealth of experience as well." What was the situation with regard to his contract at Northants? "My contract runs out at the end of next season, but Northants have indicated that they would like me to sign a one year extension to the end of 2010. We’re starting negotiations, and I’m enjoying my time with them. I set myself two goals at the start of the season and have achieved both. I’m now first choice wicket-keeper, and opening the batting. "I changed a few things at the start of the season, and scoring runs in Dubai and Bangladesh for Ireland gave me confidence going into pre-season. I scored runs early on and haven’t looked back since." Would Ireland make it to the finals next year in England? "I’d like to think if we play to our potential, then we’ll make it to England in 2009. It’s going to be exciting, and on the day it’ll come down to the countries who play the best cricket. We have plenty of match winners, and hopefully that’ll be enough." © Cricket Ireland