Ireland sweat on Johnston`s fitness

Updated: Mar 13, 2011, 20:28 PM IST

Kolkata: Their in-form pacer Trent Johnston`s fitness continues to remain a concern for Ireland as they gear up for the Group B match against South Africa here on Tuesday.

The experienced seamer, who took two wickets in five overs during their loss to India in Bangalore before a knee injury forced him off the field, came to the nets on Sunday but refrained from bowling.

Desperate for wins in their remaining two matches -- against South Africa and the Netherlands -- to qualify for the World Cup quarterfinals, Ireland hope that the seamer is fit in time before the crunch game on March 15.

The paceman also grabbed two wickets in each of Ireland`s first two games (against Bangladesh and England) of the tournament.

"We will assess his fitness tomorrow morning. He did not bowl today and had some regular exercises and cardio sessions," Ireland team manager Barry Chambers said.

However, according to team sources it appears that Johnston will be drafted into the side in place of veteran all-rounder Andre Botha who also has a groin injury.

In fact, Botha addressed the media today and said they were yet to discuss about the strategy against the Proteas. "We will have a team meeting tonight and then we will be able to say," Botha said.

The Australian-born Johnston, one of the most experienced members of the Ireland squad, has taken 52 wickets from 50 ODIs and was their leading wicket-taker in the last World Cup.

If Johnston is ruled unfit, it will be a big blow for the Irish, who must beat South Africa and the Netherlands (March 18) if they are to qualify for a place in the last eight.

PTI