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Ireland looking to replicate 2007 performance

New Delhi: Ireland, who made a dream World Cup debut by stunning Test playing nations Pakistan and Bangladesh in the 2007 edition, are looking to replicate their stupendous performance with at least a quarterfinal berth in the Feb 19-April 2 mega event.

The 15-man squad, led by seasoned batsman William Porterfield, has nine players from the sensational 2007 side. Their performance four years changed the country’s approach to the sport. It is no longer a mere pastime but has grown into a thriving professional sport. Thirteen members of the side make a living out of cricket whereas in 2007 the team had more amateurs.

“We are confident of at least progressing to the quarters. It will then be a question of kicking on from there. The World Cup in the sub-continent will be a different experience altogether. If we can prepare well, we will definitely put up a good show,” said Porterfield.

The team’s batting line-up is dominated by left-handers -- Porterfield, wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien and former England player Ed Joyce, who played 27 One-day Internationals before returning to his native country.

Porterfield and Brien have scored more than 1,000 ODI runs each and the team obviously looks up to them. Joyce’s return will strengthen their batting and his experience of playing for England will come in handy. The presence of genuine all-rounders Kevin O’ Brien and former captain Trent Johnston gives the side a good balance.

Kevin has the highest score of 142 in 52 ODIs and has been regular with the wickets recently. The seamer was pick of the bowlers in the three-match series against Zimbabwe last September. Johnston, however, still remains a key player despite being removed as skipper. He scored the winning run and took a wicket in the team’s famous win against Pakistan.

The bowling burden is back on the shoulders of pace spearhead Boyd Rankin as he has recovered from a stress fracture. With 12 wickets, the lanky pacer was Ireland’s highest wicket-taker in the last World Cup in the Caribbean.

However, it is the performance of 18-year-old left-arm spinner George Dockrell that will be most crucial on the sub-continent wickets. The rookie spinner was a revelation in last year’s World T20 with a three wicket-haul against the West Indies and an inspired spell of four for 19 against eventual champions England.

“I like the balance of the squad. As with most Irish teams of the past few years, there are quite a few all-rounders and that gives us plenty of options,” said Ireland coach Phil Simmons, a former West Indies all-rounder.

“We were also able to spend a month in India acclimatising, and that will stand us in good stead,” he said.

Ireland are drawn with India, South Africa, England, Bangladesh, West Indies and the Netherlands in Group B. They kick-off their campaign against Bangladesh Feb 25 in Dhaka.

The squad: William Porterfield (captain), Andre Botha, Alex Cusack, Niall O’Brien, Kevin O’Brien, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, John Mooney, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Albert van der Merwe, Gary Wilson, Andrew White, Ed Joyce.

Fixtures: Feb 25 vs Bangladesh (Dhaka), Mar 2 vs England (Bangalore), Mar 6 vs India (Bangalore), Mar 11 vs West Indies (Mohali), Mar 15 vs South Africa (Kolkata), Mar 18 vs Netherlands (Kolkata).


From Zee News

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