Ireland want to send Trent Johnston out on high
TRENT JOHNSTON already has three InterContinental Cup victories on his impressive CV but if the 39-year-old all-rounder is to add a fourth in his final appearance for Ireland this week he will have to help defeat Afghanistan for the first time in a first-class match.
The five-day final at the ICC Global Cricket Academy in Dubai pits the two strongest teams at Associate level against each other in Test match conditions, with the three-time winners out to regain the crown from the reigning champions.
Johnston and Andrew White have played in each of Ireland's successful finals, beating Kenya in 2005, Canada in 2007 and Namibia a year later -- but a loss to Afghanistan in the last campaign still rankles. It was only Ireland's second defeat in six IC Cups while the Afghans have still never lost in the longer form of the game.
If never sounds a long time, in Afghanistan's case it is only 12 years since they started playing internationals and barely five years ago they were scraping a two-wicket victory over Jersey to win Division 5 of the World Cricket League.
There has been no looking back since, though, and after qualifying behind Ireland for the 2015 World Cup earlier this year, and losing to the Irish in the final of the World T20 qualifiers, Afghanistan took Pakistan to the last ball of a T20 in Sharjah on Sunday night before losing by six wickets.
"We know that Afghanistan are going to be really tough opposition, especially in Asian conditions over five days. But we are rearing to go," said captain William Porterfield.
"We have prepared as we do for any opposition, we will have our plans for individual players, et cetera. Both teams know each other pretty well by now because of how often we play so I think that both teams will be well prepared.
"It has been a good year for us having won both the 50-over and T20 tournaments, so we are keen to make it a treble. Added to that is the fact that it will be Trent's last game for Ireland. I am sure that the lads will be looking to send him out on a high."
Ireland expect left-arm spinner George Dockrell to play a key role on the slow Dubai pitch while Afghanistan will be without injured paceman Hamid Hassan. The match will be live streamed on the ICC website at www.icc-cricket.com.