Thursday 14 December 2017

Ireland target top spot after Windies rally hots up race

Phil Simmons
Phil Simmons

David Townsend

IRELAND could go top of World Cup Pool B with a big win against the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday – but the ‘Boys in Green’ are perhaps a little further from qualifying for the quarter-finals after the weekend matches in their group.

Two more unbalanced contests between Test teams saw India become strong favourites to win the group after a comprehensive 130-run victory over South Africa, while the result that muddied the qualification waters was a 150-run defeat for Pakistan by the West Indies.

Both Pakistan and the West Indies looked poor but had the latter lost again, after their opening setback against Ireland, it would have been difficult to see them rallying against Zimbabwe in Canberra tomorrow to remain in contention for the quarter-finals.

That result made it all the more imperative that Ireland do not slip up against the UAE, who are the weakest team in the group, despite a spirited show in their opening match.

There were fears over the weekend that the game may not go ahead but the heavy rains that accompanied Cyclone Marcia and washed out Australia’s match against Bangladesh on Saturday gave way to sunshine in Brisbane yesterday.

Raring

“Everyone is fit and raring to go,” said coach Phil Simmons. “We have been able to use the excellent indoor facilities here but now we’re looking forward to a couple of good sessions outside at the Gabba, and training under the lights.”

A fully fit squad will allow Simmons to decide his best bowling combination and that could mean a World Cup debut for paceman Craig Young, on the faster, bouncier surface likely to be encountered at one of Australia’s iconic venues.

Young had become Ireland’s go-to seam bowler after the retirement of Trent Johnston and the loss of Boyd Rankin, so it was a surprise to see him omitted from the opening game – although replacing him with spinner Andy McBrine proved a masterstroke.

Meanwhile, South Africa captain AB de Villiers will turn to his senior players to help lift the team out of the doldrums after they suffered a “big knock” to their confidence in a crushing defeat by India.

Adding insult to injury, the team were fined for a slow over rate and leading seamer Vernon Philander may be sidelined after sustaining an injury to his left hamstring.

“It’s a big knock to get beaten by 130 runs,” he said. “It’s almost embarrassing. You always want to be a competitive team, feel like you’re always in the game.”

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