Ireland’s cricketers can still secure a place in the quarter-finals with a win from either of their two remaining games.
First up, tonight in Hamilton, New Zealand, are the unbeaten defending champions India – who are already through to the knock-out stage. Don’t expect them to take it easy because of that. The ICC preview mentions a couple of notes for optimism, and several of caution.
If India faces a challenge now, it is two-fold. Firstly, Ireland is alive and kicking in the tournament, and genuinely on the hunt for a place in the quarter-final. Ireland is as well drilled as any Associate team has ever been, sharp in the field, disciplined with the ball and utterly capable of racking up 300 with the bat.
The second challenge for India is adapting to the conditions in New Zealand. While it would welcome the cooler weather, the small boundaries would force a change in mindset in both batting and bowling. Bowlers have to pick their spots to defend, and batsmen have to resist the temptation to target one particular boundary or another when the ball is not in the right zone to make the most of. Batsmen also have to be cognisant of the fact that twos and threes would be few and far between.
This Indian team has shown no mercy in the tournament so far, and if Ireland fail to bring their A game to the fore, or show any signs of hesitancy, the juggernaut could roll on, gathering more momentum.
Indeed. Cricket Ireland have been talking to captain William Porterfield ahead of the game.
Q. Looking ahead at India and the way they’ve been playing, what do you think is your best chance at beating them? What areas are you targeting?
WILLIAM PORTERFIELD: Look, obviously, we’ve got to try to restrict them with the ball and take wickets. It’s just like any game of cricket and this format is the best way of restricting teams is taking those wickets. So we’ve got to go out there with that mentality throughout the 50 overs of taking wickets. Whatever we do first of the first ten overs is going to be big, if that’s what it’s with the bat or with the ball, we have to start the game well and get into it.
Q. Knowing you’re one point away from the quarterfinals, is that hugely exciting for the team at this moment?
WILLIAM PORTERFIELD: Yeah, it’s a nice position to be in. It’s one we want to be in the quarterfinals is a goal we set ourselves before we came here, so we’re in, as I said, a nice position now, but it doesn’t count for anything if we don’t keep getting good performances and the start of the game tomorrow.
Q. In terms of the stage that you’re playing on tomorrow, because India is probably your biggest opponent in this group, are you approaching it as any other game or are you looking to make a statement against one of the big three teams?
WILLIAM PORTERFIELD: No, it’s like any other game. We’ve gotten into each game with two points up for grabs, and tomorrow isn’t any different. We’ve approached each game with great clarity and great professionalism really from our point of view, and we’ve prepared very well. It’s a quicker turn around now from this game than from what we’ve necessarily had before, but it’s a good place as I said before, that we’re in, and we’ve got to start fresh tomorrow and come start time.
Ireland’s, and the group stages, final match, against Pakistan on 15 March, is likely to be the decider. Both teams could start that game on 6 points apiece along with the West Indies – with only two places left in the quarter-finals up for grabs.
There is an outside chance that the UAE could spring a surprise in their two remaining games. It would be a shock if they defeated South Africa, and even if they did it would probably not dent the Proteas’ impressive Net Run Rate sufficiently for Ireland’s purposes. A win for South Africa secures the second spot from Group B.
Which leaves the West Indies. Currently on 4 points the West Indies need a victory against UAE in their final game to be in contention. If they win, and Ireland lose to Pakistan, the Net Run Rate is likely to favour the West Indies for the final qualifying spot – despite Ireland’s win over the West Indies at the start of the tournament. A win for UAE, however unlikely, would mean both Pakistan and Ireland would qualify for the knock-out stage before their final game regardless of the result.
But, speculation aside, as things stand Ireland can secure qualification for the quarter-finals by themselves with a win tonight, or in Sunday’s match against Pakistan. [*fingers crossed* – Ed]
And Despite a reasonable start, the Indian bowling restricted Ireland to a modest 259 all out from 49 overs.
Which India easily overhauled in 36.5 overs with the loss of two wickets.