Mohali, March 10 (IANS) Ireland will have many admirers in the subcontinent by the time they are through with the Cricket World Cup. Their gritty performances made them a team to watch and the West Indies will be wary of them in their Group B match here Friday.
It is a must-win match for the rapidly improving Ireland if they fancy their chances to make the quarter-finals. Known for showing little deference to their opponents’ reputation, Ireland have already created a flutter with their three-wicket shocking win over England and then giving co-hosts India a fright before losing by five wickets.
West Indies, on the other hand, have roared back into the tournament, with crushing victories over the Netherlands and Bangladesh after a disastrous opening loss to South Africa. They are in third place in the group with four points.
A win for Ireland, who are fifth in the standings with two points, would put them in with a good chance of making the quarter-finals as they play the Netherlands last after their game against South Africa.
The West Indies skipper Darren Sammy said no team can afford to take Ireland lightly in the day game at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) Stadium.
“It (Ireland) is a team that is constantly improving and it shows their cricket is moving forward. We are going to go out there and stick to our strengths and apply pressure on them,” Sammy said on the eve of the match after the team went through the paces in overcast conditions.
Both the teams have had their share of injuries and Ireland are praying for the recovery of their fast bowler Trent Johnston, who is nursing a sore knee after he tripped on his follow-through in the match against India in Bangalore Sunday. So badly is the 36-year-old wanted in the squad that the Irish are willing to play him if he is even 80 percent fit.
They also have a promising left-arm spinner in George Dockrell and a useful medium pacer in John Mooney, who made batting difficult for Bangladesh and India in their group matches.
The Ireland top order will have to fire against the unique pace-spin combination of Kemar Roach and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn. With the pitch expected to carry pace and bounce, Roach, who has a hattrick and 10 wickets under his belt, could be tricky for the greenshirts. Benn, who has picked eight wickets from three games, can be equally dangerous.
Apart from hero of their England win, Kevin O’Brien, Ireland have to sort out their opening pair. Skipper William Porterfield scored 75 against India, but Paul Stirling failed to open his account.
Ed Joyce, who has scored a mere 52 runs in his three games, is also due for a big innings. The form of Niall O’Brien against India augurs well for the team. The Irish are one of the better fielding sides in the competition and that should be a big plus for them.
“The West Indies have variation in their bowling. They have a strong batting line-up. We have our strengths, too, like bowling,” Porterfield said.
For the West Indies, Chris Gayle’s return to batting form is a good sign for the team, which also has proven batsmen in Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan apart from talented youngster Darren Bravo and big-hitting Kieren Pollard.
The two sides met once in the 2007 World Cup where the West Indies got the better of them at the Super Eight stage.
Ireland: William Porterfield (captain), Andre Botha, Alex Cusack, Niall O’Brien (wicketkeeper), Kevin O’Brien, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Nigel Jones, John Mooney, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Albert van der Merwe, Gary Wilson, Andrew White, Ed Joyce.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (captain), Chris Gayle, Devon Thomas (wicketkeeper), Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Kirk Edwards, Andre Rusell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Devendra Bishoo.
Umpires: Asoka D’Silva (Sri Lanka) and Shahvir Tarapore (India)
Third umpire: Bruce Oxenford (Australia)
Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (Sri Lanka)