ICC World Cup 2015: No longer a surprise, Ireland hope to scale new heights
After two successful World Cups and rapid growth, ever-improving Ireland have lost their element of surprise and can scale new heights in Australia and New Zealand, according to captain William Porterfield.
In what looks like a favourable draw, Ireland have been paired in Pool B against South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates.
Matches against the UAE, Zimbabwe and an inconsistent West Indies side appear more than winnable and, though games against South Africa, India and Pakistan may be a bridge to far, Ireland have revelled as rank outsiders.
In 2007, following a tie against Zimbabwe, they registered a famous three-wicket victory against a Pakistan side containing greats such as Younis Kahn and Inzamam-ul-Haq to progress to the Super Eight stage at their maiden World Cup.
Four years later, Kevin O’Brien smashed a 50-ball century, the fastest-ever at a World Cup, as Ireland recorded a historic victory against England and completed the highest successful World Cup run-chase in the process.
Ireland have now earned tournament-wide respect heading into their third World Cup.
"We`ve produced some wonderful performances over the years in World Cups, and there`s no reason why we can`t claim further successes in Australia and New Zealand," Porterfield told reporters after last month’s squad announcement.
"While we may have lost the surprise factor over the years, we`ve certainly gained a lot of respect for our brand of cricket which has been pretty pleasing."
Ireland have established themselves as one of the strongest of the non-test playing nations and this was recognised when, alongside Afghanistan, they were awarded automatic qualification to the 2019 World Cup as one of the top two associate nations.
Any hopes of progressing from their pool will rest on a strong and varied batting line-up. Porterfield, O’Brien, Ed Joyce and Paul Sterling are all capable of scoring freely and have set the foundations for a number of memorable victories.
There are fears their bowling line-up may lack strength-in-depth though in George Dockrell, Ireland boast a spinner of huge potential who has already claimed 51 ODI wickets at the tender age of 22.
"I think we definitely get more respect," Dockrell told reporters during last year`s acclimatisation tour to Australia.
"I think they are more aware of the threat we have been and that`s why teams are treating us a little bit differently. For Ireland the possibilities are a bit endless at the moment."