Ireland look to end storied IC Cup association with victory
A love affair dating back more than a decade will officially end this weekend when Ireland complete their final first-class ICC InterContinental Cup match - a four-day game against old foes Scotland, which starts today in Dubai.
Ireland and the IC Cup have been all but inseparable, with the Boys in Green winning four of the six editions to date, but elevation to full-member status of the ICC means Test cricket beckons and it is time to say goodbye to the leading Associates' tournament.
Sadly, a fifth title seems unlikely. If Ireland are again to get their hands on the coveted trophy, the four-time winners must beat Scotland and rely on Afghanistan losing to the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi, or not taking first-innings points in a drawn game.
The second part of the equation is extremely unlikely to happen with Afghanistan in rampant form and boasting the world's best leg-spinner in Rashid Khan, while the holders may struggle to fulfil that which is in their hands without veterans Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien.
Scotland will be desperate to upset the odds after seeing their Celtic rivals promoted to the top table of world cricket in June, and are one of only two teams to beat Ireland in the IC Cup, winning on a green-top at Clontarf in 2004 during the inaugural edition of the competition.
The Boys in Green first got their hands on the trophy a year later in an unforgettable final against Kenya in Windhoek, and Ireland triumphed again in 2007, 2008 and in 2013 when John Mooney took 10 wickets as Trent Johnston ended his career with a victory over Afghanistan.
Beaten only three times in 38 matches, twice by Afghanistan, Ireland's domination shows in the competition stats with Johnston overall leading wicket-taker with 91, Niall O'Brien's 53 catches is also a best, while skipper William Porterfield is second in the run-scoring charts with 1,686.
"It's been a great journey for Ireland in recent times and this tournament has played an important role in that," Porterfield said.
"We'll be looking to finish strongly with a win but any match against Scotland is going to be a tough game as they have a very strong and experienced squad."