Cricket: Bangladesh scalp is pivotal - Simmons
Phil Simmons knows Ireland must hit the ground running and beat Bangladesh in their opening World Cup match in Dhaka tomorrow or months of hard work and preparation will count for little.
While five further Group B qualifying matches lie ahead for Ireland in India, a defeat by their hosts in the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur will cast a shadow over hopes of emulating the heroes of 2007 by reaching the last eight of cricket's showpiece tournament.
A win, though, makes anything possible, according to coach Simmons.
"If we can get past Bangladesh, then we put ourselves in a great position to go through," he said, "and once you get to the knockout stage, who knows what will happen on any given day?"
To finish in the top four of a seven-team group, Ireland need to win at least three matches. Realistically, Simmons would not expect to succeed against India or South Africa, whereas Ireland's final group game against the Netherlands should be a banker. That leaves a minimum requirement of two wins from clashes with Bangladesh, England next Wednesday in Bangalore, and the West Indies on March 11.
"Bangladesh is going to be the biggest game for us," Simmons said. "England are up there with South Africa and India as the three toughest teams in our group. West Indies, though, can be there one day and not the next."
Ireland do not have a great track record in Mirpur, having lost three one-day internationals to Bangladesh there in five days, three years ago, in some of the fiercest conditions the team have ever faced.
But this squad is much better prepared after a week of acclimatising in Dhaka and Irish victories over Bangladesh at the 2007 World Cup and last year in Belfast point to a closely fought contest.
This time Simmons will also have Ed Joyce to call upon as the former England left-hander plays his first competitive match for his native land since 2005, when helping Ireland qualify for the last World Cup. Joyce's experience against spin bowling could prove invaluable if the hosts prepare a pitch to suit one of their two strengths; the other being the explosive batting of opener Tamim Iqbal.
Bangladesh lost the opening game of their World Cup campaign by 87 runs on Saturday, after a Virender Sehwag-inspired India piled up 370-4 from 50 overs, and will be under perhaps even more pressure to win than Ireland in front of a capacity crowd of 35,000.
Bangladesh v Ireland, Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports Interactive, 8.30am
Ireland's remaining Group B fixtures
March 2: England v Ireland, Bangalore; March 6: India v Ireland, Bangalore; March 11: Ireland v West Indies, Mohali;
March 15: Ireland v South Africa, Kolkata; March 18: Ireland v Netherlands, Kolkata.