Irish to 'reach peak' in World Cup campaign - Porterfield
William Porterfield knows Ireland will have to hit the ground running when they open their World Cup qualifying campaign tomorrow because the Netherlands, their opponents at the Harare Sports Club, are one of the teams likely to reach the final stages of the tournament.
"We are very confident of our chances to qualify, we have been playing some very good cricket in preparation, winning tight matches and we need to bring that from the start of the tournament and peak at the right time," Ireland captain Porterfield said.
Once the ICC announced it was cutting the number of teams in its four-yearly showpiece from 14 to 10, the odds were always going to be against the Boys in Green appearing in a fourth successive World Cup finals, even with their elevation to Test match status since the last event.
At least half of the 10 teams assembled in Zimbabwe will fancy their chances of claiming one of the last two places at next year's finals in England.
Afghanistan, boasting the world's highest-ranked spinner in Rashid Khan, are probably favourites, while Zimbabwe with home advantage, are also likely be waiting in the Super Six stage of the tournament.
Before that Ireland need to perform strongly in a Group A that contains Papua New Guinea, the West Indies and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the multi-national Dutch, with the top three progressing to the second stage.
Wins against the other two group qualifiers will count in the final table.
Three months ago Ireland were looking ragged after two years of appearing to be at best treading water, but new coach Graham Ford has re-focused a very experienced group and will be delighted with the form of key players Paul Stirling and Boyd Rankin.
Stirling smashed consecutive 156s in warm-up fixtures and if he comes off, especially against the West Indies, the Belfast blaster can win a game on his own, while Rankin looks in good rhythm and will be Porterfield's go-to bowler.
A lesser-sung hero may prove to be George Dockrell. Not only will the Leinster left-armer's canny spin be a factor on the slow pitches but in taking Ireland to victory over Scotland with a convincing 47 not out on Thursday he showed he can provide lower-order runs for his side.
Ireland have been missing consistent cameos in the latter stages of innings since the retirements of John Mooney and Trent Johnston and if Dockrell can weigh in consistently with 20s and 30s it will be another ingredient in a winning mix .