03 February 2015
Ireland ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide
Appropriately tagged giant-killers, teams will be wary of the Irish, who recently won a tri-series in the UAE
With Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce to bank on, Ireland has a dynamic mix of youth and experience.
Ireland has built a ‘giant-killing’ reputation and hence, most teams will be wary of the team as it is eminently capable of beating top sides, as it did at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 against Pakistan and famously at the 2011 event against England.
“I think we have a very good chance. We have a very talented team and a very experienced one. We just have to go and play to the best of our abilities and see if we can get through the group stage and get into the quarterfinals. Then you never know what can happen.”
On the other hand, it will also have the flamboyance of youth in the next generation of Irish stars with spinner George Dockrell, the dashing young batsman Andrew Balbirnie, the athletic Stuart Thompson – who boasts an impressive bowling average of 14.50 – and pace-man Craig Young, who picked up 5 for 46 on his One-Day International debut. Young has performed consistently since, and is ready to fill the shoes of the now retired Trent Johnston.
The side did suffer a setback on its final preliminary tour of Dubai before coming to Australia and New Zealand, with the loss of Tim Murtagh due to a stress fracture in his right foot. Murtagh has been replaced by pacer Max Sorensen.
World Cup history: Ireland made a dramatic start to its World Cup journey in 2007, when it played out a thrilling tie against Zimbabwe in a Group D match at the Sabina Park in Kingston in Jamaica. In its very next match, Ireland defeated Pakistan by three wickets on St Patrick’s Day, establishing itself as a team to be reckoned with and showing it could also entertain cricket fans to the maximum.
In the 2011 edition, Ireland pulled off a memorable come-from-behind win against England in Bangalore by three wickets. Chasing a daunting target of 328, Ireland was struggling at 111 for 5 at one stage, but Kevin O’Brien then smashed the fastest-ever World Cup century – off just 50 balls – to take the side to a historic win.
The team has registered a total of four wins from 15 matches with one match ending in a tie in World Cups so far, and will be participating in its third World Cup.
Pool: Ireland is grouped in Pool B along with India, the defending champion, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe and United Arab Emirates.
Captain: William Porterfield
Coach: Phil Simmons
Preview: The ICC High Performance Programme tour for Ireland, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland gave the Associate nations a chance to acclimatise to the conditions in New Zealand and Australia. The tour gave each team valuable match-time along with a fair idea of what challenges the conditions pose and how best to adapt to the challenge.
In captain Porterfield, Ireland has an able leader but more importantly a solid batsman at the top of the order. Young, the 24-year old pacer, impressed everyone with his ability in the recently concluded tri-series between Scotland, Afghanistan and Ireland in the UAE. Most of Ireland's players also feature in county cricket, and have gleaned considerable experience.
Strengths: Ireland will bank on the firepower of Kevin O’Brien, the experience of William Porterfield and Ed Joyce, and its impressive fielding. While losing Tim Murtagh might have been a blow, the man who replaces him, Max Sorensen, is no lightweight and has a very impressive T20 record with Ireland.
Ireland also have the all-round talents of Paul Stirling to call on. The 24-year-old has five ODI centuries so far from 51 matches, and is just behind Porterfield, who has six centuries from 73 matches. Batting will lead the way for Ireland in this World Cup, but with the impressive performances that newer players like Young have put in, and the experience and nous of the likes of George Dockrell to fall back on, the team has its bases covered.
Recent Form: The tri-series in the UAE gave Ireland a chance to further fine-tine its game-plan before the World Cup. Ireland lost to Afghanistan by 71 runs in the fifth game of the series and the final match was washed out due to rain, but with two wins in four matches, Ireland won the series.
It also played a two-match series against New Zealand A in Dubai, where it lost the first match by 11 runs but came back to win the second match by four wickets.
Although Ireland didn’t have a successful run in the ICC High Performance Programme - it lost four matches in the eight games it played - it defeated Australian Capital Territory by 124 runs and one wicket in two matches.
Star player: Kevin O’Brien
The image of a pink-haired Irishman carrying the team to a memorable come-from-behind win against England in the 2011 edition with a super-fast century will forever be etched in the annals of World Cup lore.
In the last year, O’Brien has scored 245 runs from eight innings in ODIs at an impressive strike rate of 84.19. The all-rounder has also chipped in with wickets and has been fairly successful in curbing the scoring rate, picking up six wickets and giving away runs at just 4.45 per over.
Crucial to the team’s chances, Ireland will be hoping he can turn it on at the World Cup once again and carry the side to another win.
One to watch out for: Andrew Balbirnie
The 24-year old Batting All-Rounder has played 11 ODIs so far. Balbirnie captained Ireland in the Under-15s, Under-17s and Under-19s before signing up for Middlesex in 2014. While his off-spin comes in handy, he also provides Ireland the luxury of having a technically sound batsman in the lower order. Balbirnie led Ireland in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in 2010 where he picked up seven wickets from five matches at an impressive average of 27.00.
A recent addition to the starting XI, Balbirnie’s been in hugely impressive form and was Ireland’s leading run scorer on the HPP tour of Australia and New Zealand, showing a clear liking for the faster pitches. Even more impressive though was his performance against New Zealand ‘A’ in Dubai as he struck a magnificent century, finishing with 129 from just 96 balls against a near full strength attack.
Alex Cusack – He was a carpenter before becoming a professional cricketer.
George Dockrell – His father Derek also represented Ireland.
Ed Joyce – His two brothers and twin sisters have also represented Ireland.
John Mooney - His brother, Paul, has also represented Ireland in international cricket.
Niall O’Brien – Niall, brother Kevin and father Brendan have all captained Ireland.
Paul Stirling – His father refereed international rugby.
Stuart Thompson - Thompson's father, Nigel, also represented Ireland.
Key Match: Ireland v West Indies, February 16, Saxton Oval, Nelson
Ireland will open its campaign against the West Indies at the Saxton Oval in Nelson in New Zealand. The team will look at this as an ideal opportunity to start with a win on the board.
If the Irish bowlers can put pressure on a relatively inexperienced, though still flamboyant, West Indies batting line-up, the side could be well-placed in its quest to upset higher-ranked teams. A win against West Indies will also give Ireland a dream start to the tournament and much-required momentum before it takes on the likes of South Africa, Pakistan and India.
“It is likely to be its bowling that will come under the most scrutiny as none of its new ball bowlers have the benefit of 50-over World Cup experience... However, if it can take early wickets and build pressure their powerful batting line up, which is as good as many Full Members, has the potential to take it to the next stage of the ICC Cricket World Cup.” - Trent Johnston.
“Ireland have got a good structure and good facilities. They’re a well-drilled unit, and a lot of their players have county experience, so you know they are going to cause teams problems. They have always got the whole country behind them, they’re tough to beat, and the win against England in 2011 was huge for them. It will be their goal to have an Irish Test team to keep hold of the players that have come over to England to do that.” - Paul Collingwood, coach of Scotland
World Cup Legend’s Prediction:
Scott Styris Prediction – Ireland: Group Stage
Ireland have shown before that they are capable of producing an upset. They have many quality county cricketers who have scored runs and taken wickets against the worlds best. I don't think they have the world class quality to make the knock out stages but if they do, it should be considered a successful campaign.
Squad: William Porterfield (capt), Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Andrew McBrine, John Mooney, Max Sorensen, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson, Craig Young.
Feb 16: v West Indies, Saxton Oval, Nelson
Feb 25: v UAE, the Gabba, Brisbane
Mar 3: v South Africa, Manuka Oval, Canberra
Mar 7: v Zimbabwe, Bellerive Oval, Hobart
Mar 10: v India, Seddon Park, Hamilton
Mar 15: v Pakistan, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide