Saturday 17 February 2018

Porterfield hopes to draw on India's 'home' support

Ireland captain William Porterfield. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / ICC / Sportsfile.
Ireland captain William Porterfield. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / ICC / Sportsfile.

The Blarney Army expects! As Ireland put the finishing touches to preparations for the World T20, ahead of tonight's first match against Oman in Dharamsala, Larry the Leprechaun was touching down on Indian soil ready for another global adventure.

Like the other Ireland fans who have assembled in the foothills of Himalayas, the cheerleader-in-chief knows it will be tough to qualify for the second phase by topping a group that also includes favourites Bangladesh and the Netherlands.

But if progress was dependant on support - both from locals as well those who have flown across continents - the Boys in Green would already have one foot in the Super Ten stage, where the winners of their group will play India, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan.

"We always get great support wherever we go and it's clearly going to be no different here," said Ireland captain William Porterfield, after all 15 members of his squad had reported fit and in form to begin a campaign that could last three weeks or be all over in five days.

"The mood in the camp is pretty good. Our preparation has been good and we are all in some sort of form. We chased down 120 in 12 overs to beat Hong Kong last week and even losing to Zimbabwe in our other warm-up wasn't so bad as the pitch started tacky but we still made runs."

Porterfield admitted he knows little about Oman, who are playing in a global event for the first time after being the surprise package of last summer's qualifying tournament, when they were coached by former England all-rounder Derek Pringle.

Oddly enough, Ireland can perhaps claim "home advantage" in Group A having spent a week in Dharamsala while the Netherlands preferred to arrive late and Oman and Bangladesh were involved in the Asia Cup.

The Bangladesh clash on Friday is likely to be crucial but there are echoes of the last World T20 in 2014 when, after beating the Test match side, Zimbabwe, Ireland were hammered by the Dutch in their last game and went out on net run rate.

With that harrowing experience in mind, Porterfield will have one eye on extending the margin of victory from winning positions or damage limitation in defeat, in case the group is again decided by cricket's version of goal difference.

The return of Boyd Rankin should help in both instances with his pace and bounce unequalled among the non-Test playing nations while batting pyrotechnics from Paul Stirling or Kevin O'Brien have the capacity to win any match.

Porterfield and the O'Brien brothers are competing in their eighth global event in nine years but with this tournament moving to a four-year cycle and the ICC still insisting on a 10-team World Cup in 2019 it may be the last hurrah for the remaining golden generation.

Ireland v Oman, Live Sky Sports 2, 2.00pm

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