Dubai: Scotland will be seeking a clean sweep of its World Cricket League (WCL) Championship double-header against Ireland to stay afloat for automatic qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 when the two sides face-off on September 6 and 8 in Stormont, Belfast.
Currently in fourth position on equal points with Afghanistan (15) and three points behind Netherlands (18), a double-win against the competition leader will see Scotland pick up the maximum four points and move into second place, one point ahead of Netherlands.
Ireland has already won the tournament and become the first of two sides to earn automatic qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, and Scotland needs to secure, at least three points to keep itself in the hunt for the crucial second spot, while four points will strengthen its claim by knocking Netherlands and the UAE out of the race.
Should Scotland secure a double-win, it can still be overtaken by Afghanistan if Afghanistan wins both its fixtures, to be played against Kenya on October 2 and 4 in Sharjah.
However, if both Scotland and Afghanistan drop points, fifth-placed UAE could overtake them to snatch second place if it defeats Namibia 2-0 in its 50-over WCL Championship matches on September 27 and 29 in Sharjah.
In this scenario, two wins would see UAE join Netherlands on 18 points, but be ranked ahead of the Dutch based on the number of matches won.
Ireland captain William Porterfield says that his side will be fighting just as fiercely as Scotland for final-round victory.
"This is a fresh round of games for us, and we are focused on playing good cricket and finishing the competition strongly. For us, it doesn`t matter that we`ve already won the competition ? we will approach these games just like any other," Porterfield said.
Ireland`s leading run scorer, Porterfield will celebrate his 29th birthday while playing the first ODI on Friday, and says that victory would be the perfect birthday present.
"Without a doubt, we are looking to win both games. We want to keep showing people that Ireland is the leading Associate side, and that Ireland deserves to be in every global event," he said.
Scotland captain Preston Mommsen, speaking after his side`s one-off ODI against Australia in Edinburgh on Tuesday, said his team was confident heading into the crucial WCL Championship clashes.
"The guys are still confident, the bowlers are bowling good sets and the batters are hitting the ball well, so it`s all about putting an all-round performance.
"We`re going to have to be savvy against the Irish. The key part of us is our planning and how we approach each individual. We have built up a lot of knowledge of the Irish players and implementing the plans will be key," said the 25-year-old all-rounder.
While the top two sides from the ICC WCL Championship will qualify automatically for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, the bottom six teams will receive a second chance to advance at next year`s ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand, when they lock horns with Hong Kong, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Uganda for the final two spots.
Following the two ODIs, Ireland and Scotland will also go head to head in the four-day, first-class Intercontinental Cup from September 11 to 14 in Clontarf, Dublin.
Ireland currently leads the competition and has already secured its spot in the final, to be played in December in Dubai. The side leads its closest rival and defending champion Afghanistan by 12 points.
Ireland will finish on top of the ladder if it acquires nine points or more against Scotland, while a maximum of 20 points for Scotland could see it leapfrog Afghanistan into second position. However, Scotland will only qualify for the final if Afghanistan finishes pointless against Kenya in its final match, which will be played in October.