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Saturday 18 November 2017

Cricket: Simmons targets return to top 10

Phil Simmons will be hoping it is third time lucky in Harare today as Ireland look to regain 10th place in the world rankings by beating Zimbabwe in the final one-day international.

Two narrow victories by the home side -- by two and three wickets -- have seen them not only win the series, but also leapfrog Ireland in the ODI standings ahead of next year's World Cup.

Those rankings could become increasingly important as the ICC seeks to slim down participants in future World Cups, so Simmons is sure to field his strongest side in what would otherwise have been a dead rubber.

But after two scratchy batting displays, the question is: does the coach know his best side?

Skipper William Porterfield, Niall O'Brien and Andre Botha are all out of sorts and while the captain will not be rested, O'Brien may see his wicketkeeping duties handed to Gary Wilson, if only for this last game of Ireland's very long season.

The real quandary for Simmons, however, is what to do with Botha, a stalwart of the Ireland side for the last decade but someone who is struggling for form after missing most of the season through injury.

Four months ago, it would have been unthinkable that Ireland would go to a World Cup without one of the stars of their 2007 campaign, but now the all-rounder's place in the squad is far from certain.

Simmons would love to have Botha's experience on board for world cricket's showpiece event, but he has shown by the jettisoning of Peter Connell that he isn't afraid to make tough decisions.

Irish Independent

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