Irish will ensure England keep eye on the ball
Bangalore: England return on Wednesday to the scene of their thrilling tied match against India at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium against an Ireland team who they would take lightly at their peril in World Cup Group B.
Theirs is marginally the tougher of the two qualifying groups and although England, India, South Africa and West Indies should go through to the quarter-finals in late March, Ireland are quite capable of upsetting any of them on their day.
In 2007, Trent Johnston’s men famously upset Pakistan to send them packing after the first round, a result remembered too for the death shortly afterwards of the sub-continental team’s coach, Bob Woolmer.
England here have already been given a scare against one of the so-called “smaller” nations, Netherlands, who they only beat with eight balls remaining last Tuesday.
Andrew Strauss’s men, however, have shown they are in red-hot form with the bat, matching India’s huge 338 total on Sunday in one of the most memorable cricket matches ever, let alone the World Cup.
In all, England have chased down 630 runs in two matches so far with their captain Strauss leading from the front having amassed 246 runs so far to head the batting charts in the tournament.
Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell will also be hungry to join their skipper higher up the run charts and the relatively inexperienced Irish line-up on the flat batting track could well be the opportunity they need.
However, Ireland make up for the relative lack of their bowlers’ wicket-taking ability with an unstinting commitment in the field by pouching half-chances and scoring direct-hit run-outs.
The English bowling, which was thrashed by the Dutch and the Indians, is still a point of concern, especially with their strike bowler James Anderson still searching for some morale-boosting wickets.
Stuart Broad should make a return after a stomach upset kept him out of the match against India and will be looking to continue his recent purple patch.
England, however, will be wary of the batting prowess of the Irish, knowing that Niall O’Brien -- Ireland’s surprise packet in the 2007 World Cup -- and Ed Joyce are both dangerous.
Joyce played for England in the Caribbean four years ago but switched back to the country of his birth last year after losing his place in Strauss’s line-up.
His return against his former team mates should add a little extra spice to the occasion.
Ireland, who lost to England by 48 runs in the Super Eights in 2007, have another reason to beat their old rivals on Wednesday. They have aspirations of joining the nine test-playing nations and a win would certainly not hurt their cause.