Tuesday 24 April 2018

Ireland badly need to restore pride

Graham Ford: last lingering hopes. Photo: Getty Images
Graham Ford: last lingering hopes. Photo: Getty Images

Ger Siggins

Its now out of Ireland's hands, but to retain those last lingering hopes of the 2019 World Cup they must first beat Scotland in Harare this morning.

That won't be easy, despite winning eight of the last nine ODIs between the sides. The Scots have been a refreshing surprise in this tournament, still unbeaten and well-placed to reach the finals in England.

Ireland, however, have crashed to two heavy defeats and need other results to go their way to qualify.

There are two scenarios in which that can happen, both requiring Ireland to beat Scotland and Afghanistan. The first also needs West Indies to beat the hosts and the Scots, but also the unlikely scenario that Zimbabwe lost to UAE. That would leave the table top reading: WI 8pts, Ireland 6, Scotland 5, Zimbabwe 5.

The other scenario needs Zimbabwe to beat UAE and the Windies, and the latter to beat Scotland. That would leave Zimbabwe with 9pts and Ireland and West Indies tied on 6pts which would bring net run rate into it. Ireland finished the pool stage with a huge NRR advantage but the thrashing by Zimbabwe has wiped that away.

All the above hangs on coach Graham Ford sparking life into a batting unit that feasts on associate attacks but struggles when it steps up a division.

Zimbabwe and West Indies strike little fear into the top teams these days, but the way they ripped through Ireland suggests the first years in Test cricket will be difficult.

Conspiracy theorists - and when ICC are concerned there are many - are already crying foul about the pitch used for the Zimbabwe game.

Most international grounds will have a dozen or more pitches, with five or six rotated for top games as the surface becomes tired and lifeless. So, it is bizarre that the pitch Ireland faced Zimbabwe was being used for the fourth time in ten days, in which seven games were played on the ground.

The hosts had a four-strong varied spin attack, while Ireland had one, plus a part-timer, but a better hand of seamers. Selecting a fourth-hand pitch for the game was always going to favour spin, suiting the hosts.

Ireland exacerbated things by dropping their most successful spinner from the previous game, Simi Singh, and bringing in batsman Gary Wilson whose run-scoring has been in decline for several years.

However, today is about salvaging points, and pride.

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