14 March 2015
Pakistan v Ireland Preview, Match 42, Adelaide
It could be Ireland’s batting against Pakistan’s pacers for a place in the knockouts
NELSON, NEW ZEALAND - FEBRUARY 16: John Mooney (L) and Niall O'Brien of Ireland celebrate after winning the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match between the West Indies and Ireland at Saxton Field on February 16, 2015 in Nelson, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
If the inclement weather stays away from Napier and the West Indies beats United Arab Emirates with a degree of comfort, this will effectively become a pre-quarterfinal. The team that loses will almost certainly have to pack its bags.
Pakistan lost its opening two matches against old foes India and the West Indies, but bounced back to win the next three, its last a stunning success over mighty South Africa.
Ireland, meanwhile, began by chasing down the West Indies' 304 for 7 in a rousing batting display and also beat UAE and Zimbabwe. It was no match for Test nations India and South Africa, but will be hoping to make it to its first knockouts.
Once again, the pitch at the Adelaide Oval looked bone dry and sparsely grassed. Whether it’s abrasive enough to scuff the ball up and allow for some reverse swing late in the innings remains to be seen. For both these sides, however, it will almost certainly be a bat-first surface. Ireland chased superbly against the West Indies, but will fancy it less against an attack in which Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali have all had telling spells. The absence of a frontline spinner has barely been noticed as Pakistan resurrected its campaign with victories against Zimbabwe, UAE and South Africa.
Ireland may miss bowlers who can offer that kind of speed, but the batsmen have managed ten scores in excess of 50, with Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien and Andrew Balbirnie doing it twice apiece. At Seddon Park against India, Ireland had a real opportunity to pile up 300-plus. Instead, it lost 7 for 53 in the last ten overs. It was the kind of glitch it can’t afford against Pakistan.
Given Pakistan’s recent record when chasing, it too will not want to bowl first in a must-win game. And when it bats, it will look to its batsmen to provide greater support to Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain.
After three wins on the trot, Misbah and the team management will resist the urge to tinker much. If Younus Khan keeps his place, as he’s expected to, either Sohaib Maqsood or Umar Akmal could drop down to the bench so that the XI can accommodate Haris Sohail, who also offers an additional slow-bowling option.
"I would like to believe our best is yet to come," said Grant Flower, Pakistan's batting coach. "If we don't [deliver], I don't think we will go much further in the tournament."
Pakistan (likely): Ahmed Shahzad, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Haris Sohail, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Younus Khan, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan.
Ireland (likely): William Porterfield (capt), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Andy Balbirnie, Kevin O’Brien, Gary Wilson (wk), Stuart Thompson, John Mooney, George Dockrell, Alex Cusack.
Australia gets the two points they wanted
England signs off with consolation win