Ireland's big guns on board for Zimbabwe tour
Ireland have named a full-strength squad for next month's ODI series in Zimbabwe, followed by the all-important InterContinental Cup match in Namibia on October 24 - the second step towards becoming a Test match-playing country by 2018.
While Niall O'Brien is the only survivor from the Ireland side that beat Kenya to win the first of four IC Cups in Windhoek in 2005, the 14-man squad has a familiar look with the team that faced Australia last month being supplemented by Kevin O'Brien, George Dockrell and Max Sorensen.
The winners of the IC Cup will take part in the Test Challenge, a home and away series against the lowest-ranked ICC Full Member, with the possibility of a place at the top table of world cricket at its conclusion - should they be deemed worthy.
Ireland won the first of their seven IC Cup matches, comfortably beating the United Arab Emirates in June, and a second victory would stand them in good stead ahead of tougher tasks ahead against Afghanistan, the Netherlands and Scotland.
Durham wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter will join the squad for the Zimbabwe leg of the tour, which gets underway with the first of three ODIs on October 9 and ends with a four-day match starting on October 17.
That match could well be a precursor to the Test Challenge, with the African side seen as the weakest of the Full Members and not expected to rise in the rankings any time soon.
Ireland beat Zimbabwe by five runs in a thriller at the World Cup in March and the matches in Harare will be a measure of the relative strengths of two sides that are evenly matched, despite their different status in the international game.
Ireland squad: W Porterfield (cpt), A Balbirnie, G Dockrell, E Joyce, J Mooney, T Murtagh, A McBrine, K O'Brien, N O'Brien, M Sorensen, P Stirling, S Thompson, G Wilson, C Young, S Poynter (Zimbabwe leg only).