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Simmons still hopeful of reaching final

Ireland head to Zimbabwe this week for the ICC Intercontinental Cup

Simmons still hopeful of reaching final - Cricket News
Ireland coach Phil Simmons.
Ireland head to Zimbabwe this week with their best possible squad to maintain their hold on the ICC Intercontinental Cup. 

The Irish team are the three-time defending champions of the tournament. Their survival in the competition this time depends on their performance against the hosts Zimbabwe XI (20-23 September) in this final league encounter. The Irish team won the last three editions of the ICC Intercontinental Cup (2005, 2006-07, 2007-08). 

For the encounter, Ireland have named a strong squad with skipper William Porterfield and Gary Wilson being released from county duties for the game. Also back from injury is Niall O'Brien. 

Ireland coach Phil Simmons is keen to look at the big picture ahead of the tour. "We haven't given up hope of still qualifying for the final of the Intercontinental Cup. A full points win would keep us in with a chance, so we'll be striving all out to achieve that," said Simmons. 

Last month Ireland registered a confident six-wicket win over hosts Canada in their last league match in the tournament without the likes of Porterfield, Wilson and O'Brien.

But the Zimbabwean challenge will be stiff because of the current positioning of all teams on the points table. Table toppers Afghanistan (77) and Scotland with 69 points from five games lead both Zimbabwe XI (63 points) and Ireland (52). Afghanistan wind up their campaign against Kenya early next month making Ireland's task of making it to the final even more difficult. 

Also part of the Ireland tour itinerary is a three-match One-Day International series against the full Zimbabwean side. This will be the last One-Day International series for Ireland before the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 gets underway on February 19. 

"It's an important trip for a variety of reasons. We're currently ranked 10th in the world above Zimbabwe, and we want to not only keep our position but close in on, and possibly overhaul Bangladesh," opined Simmons. 

Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) have named a strong squad for the game with a few internationals featuring in the line-up to be led by Vusimusi Sibanda. ``The Zimbabwe team is more or less an A side. But there are four to six players who have played at a higher level. So that will help our side for the future," reckoned Simmons.

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