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15 February 201515:04 By Anand Vasu, Nelson

West Indies v Ireland, Preview, Match 5 at Nelson

West Indies will bank on the flair of Gayle and Samuels, while Ireland will bring its own exciting brand of cricket to the game

West Indies v Ireland, Preview, Match 5 at Nelson - Cricket News

Chris Gayle will do his best to get the crowd to its feet as he attempts to rain sixes on them.

If you got the entire population of Nelson into Eden Gardens, you would still have 20,000 empty seats. On Monday (February 16), the big occasion comes to the small town. If Hagley Oval is a pretty venue, sitting as it is in the middle of a park in a garden city, Saxton Oval is a picture postcard. Encircled by hills from which paragliders float down as the sun sets, yet close enough to the sea for the air to smell salty when the wind blows in the right direction, this is a ground where you expect time to stand still.

Instead, Chris Gayle will do his best to get the crowd – the ground seats no more than 6000 – to its feet as he attempts to rain sixes on them. And Ireland, a mighty associate team, will not flinch in bringing its constantly exciting brand of cricket to the fore.

While Christchurch was cold and grey, Nelson, on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island, is known for having more sunshine than almost any other place in the region. On the day before the game, the skies were a shade of azure so pure that the wispy cirrus clouds stood out white and proud. The pitch was expected to be true and batsman friendly, and when you add to this the rock hard, lightning quick outfield and shortish boundaries, the recipe is perfect for a run fest.

The proof, as always, will be in the pudding, and to this end West Indies will want to put its recent series loss against South Africa behind, and make a fresh start. Gayle, backed up by Marlon Samuels, will form the backbone of the batting line-up, and the less experienced men will be expected to bat around those two.

Jason Holder, the tall young fast bowler, certainly looks a long-term prospect. Leadership is about many things, and especially when you have to unite a bunch of players from different islands, different countries even, it becomes about much more than calling correctly at the toss and then setting fields. In a tournament as big as the World Cup, where a campaign has to be built in cogent fashion, with each win building towards something bigger and each loss serving up lessons that need to be learnt quickly, a strong leader is a minimum prerequisite. How Holder shoulders the responsibility will be key.

The most organised of the associate nations, Ireland has been quite consistent too. This has come through building a stable squad over the years, having its players constantly in the mix in top-flight cricket where possible, and allowing the team to grow as a unit.

In Ed Joyce and William Porterfield, Ireland has bankable batsmen and Kevin O’ Brien brings to the table a brand of fearless batting that all opposition bowlers would do well to take note of. In the right conditions, Ireland’s seam attack, just the right sort of pace and intent, can move the ball enough in the air and off the pitch to keep the best batsmen in the world honest. When it comes to defending, George Dockrell can bottle an end up with his left-arm spin, leaving the side with a well-rounded feel.

When push comes to shove, Ireland would know it is good enough to pull off the upset, as it has done in the past. Although that may not eventually come to pass, just the fact that it’s on the cards makes for particularly delicious anticipation.

Teams (likely)
Ireland: William Porterfield (capt), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Gary Wilson (wk), Andy Balbirnie, Kevin O’Brien, John Mooney, George Dockrell, Max Sorensen, Craig Young.

West Indies: Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Jason Holder (capt), Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach.