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Ireland goes head to head with Afghanistan in ICC Intercontinental Cup

Defending champion Ireland aims for its first victory

Ireland goes head to head with Afghanistan in ICC Intercontinental Cup - Cricket News
Defending champion Ireland will be aiming for its first victory in the four-day first-class ICC Intercontinental Cup 2009-10 when it goes head to head with Afghanistan in Dambulla from Thursday.

Ireland, winner of the tournament since 2005, currently sits in sixth place after managing just 12 points from its two previous games. In contrast, first-time entrant Afghanistan is in fourth position on 23 points from two matches that includes a come-from-behind one-wicket victory over the Netherlands in Amstelveen in August.

The two sides last met in the Super Eight stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2009 Qualifier in Stand Friedman Oval, Krugersdorp, South Africa when Afghanistan successfully defended a modest total of 218 runs to beat eventual champion Ireland by 22 runs.

Looking ahead at the match, Afghanistan captain Nawroz Mengal said: "Ireland is an experienced side with some quality cricketers. We respect it as much as we respect each and every opponent but the victory in the ICC World Cup 2009 Qualifier has given us a lot of inspiration and confidence that we can do it again.

"We'll try to translate that confidence by putting up a disciplined performance on the field which will strengthen our position not only in the tournament but also in world cricket as people do take notice of you when you perform or beat a highly-placed or more experienced side."

Afghanistan coach Kabir Khan, a former Pakistan Test fast bowler, said: "We're still in learning stages and good performances always motivate a young side to do better and we are no different. We are a talented side and if we earn some more experience, we will be able to regularly challenge the top sides.

"The more we will play against quality oppositions like Ireland, the better and quicker we'll learn. Collectively every team and individually every player have something to offer and you just need to be smart enough to learn things that you can raise the level of your game.

"We arrived here from chilly conditions three weeks ago and have trained extremely hard. I'm sure the boys have now acclimatised well which will help them produce their best performance."

Ireland captain William Porterfield acknowledged that the prospect of facing Afghanistan is now very different to what it might have been in the past.

"We certainly respect Afghanistan as a team," said Porterfield. "They have proven time and again over the past couple of years that they are a good team and they fully deserve their place at this level.

"They beat us in the one-day format during the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in South Africa so we will not be taking them lightly. Their opening bowling attack is more than useful ? it's capable of taking quick wickets. And they also have some good spinners so as batsmen we'll have to be at the top of our game. We don't fear Afghanistan but we do respect them.

"But we are the defending champions. We have won this tournament on the past three occasions and so we will be giving it everything we have to make it four in a row. We are confident and our preparation for this match has been very good. The boys are working hard and so we're looking forward to what should be a good, tough, hard-fought game of cricket."

After the ICC Intercontinental Cup match, the two sides will remain in Sri Lanka and will be also joined by Canada as part of their preparations for the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2010 which will be staged from 9 to 13 February in the UAE at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City, and Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi.


AFGHANISTAN (squad) - Nawroz Khan Mangal, Mohamamd Shahzad Mohammadi, Karim Khan Sadiq, Mohammad Nabi Eisakhil, Merwais Ashraf, Raees Ahmadzai, Shahpoor Zardan, Shafiqullah Shafaq, Hamid Hasan, Samiullah Shinwari, Noor Ali Noori, Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai, Dawlat Ahmadzai and Obaidullah Konary

IRELAND (squad) - William Porterfield (captain), Nigel Jones, Niall O'Brien, Gary Wilson, Trent Johnston, Andre Botha, Kevin O'Brien, John Mooney, Alex Cusack, Andrew White, Peter Connell, Phil Eaglestone and Gary Kidd

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