Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ireland aiming to lay down a marker before T20 World Cup

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A hectic six-week period for the Irish men’s cricket team begins in Clontarf this afternoon as they welcome Pakistan for the first of three T20 warm-ups ahead of next month’s World Cup in the US.

Pakistan are also one of the heavyweights in Ireland’s group, along with the powerhouse of India, so this series is a chance for Ireland to test themselves ahead of the World Cup and perhaps, prove their ability to take a scalp.

‘We don’t get to play the very top teams like Pakistan all that often, so we are determined to make it count. Of course, at the end of the day, it is about preparation for the World Cup, but we also want to put down a marker and win this series,’ explains Gareth Delany.

Gareth Delany of Ireland during an Ireland men’s T20 squad training session at Castle Avenue Cricket Ground in Dublin. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

The 27-year-old Dubliner, whose sister Laura is captain of the women’s team, was one of the stars of Ireland’s last appearance in a T20 World Cup, with his bowling display against the West Indies helping Ireland to cause a shock and propel them into the Super 12.

For someone who had grown up watching some of the famous days in Irish cricket, like the 2007 win over Pakistan in the Caribbean or beating England in Bangalore four years later, it was great to play such a part in another upset.

This T20 World Cup in the US is an attempt for the game to make a bigger imprint in that country. Delany and his Irish teammates have previous experience of playing on American pitches in Florida, so it won’t be a complete step into the unknown for them, although the pitch in Long Island is going to be unusual for everyone, especially as it has been imported from Adelaide for the tournament.

George Dockrell of Ireland celebrates taking the wicket of Harry Brook of England during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup match between England and Ireland at Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 26, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. Pic: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
George Dockrell of Ireland celebrates taking the wicket of Harry Brook of England during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup match between England and Ireland at Melbourne Cricket Ground on October 26, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. Pic: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

Ireland play India and Canada in New York, before heading to the familiar terrain of Florida to take on the hosts and Pakistan.

While they will be targeting wins over Canada and the US, taking out one of the two big guns will really make people sit up and take notice of this team.

‘If we were to do that, I think it would go down as one of the biggest achievements in Irish cricket,’ Delany suggests.

‘It is a big ask, but we firmly believe that we can compete with the best, we have proven that in the past. And that is what these three games against Pakistan will hopefully show too.’

Paul Stirling during an Ireland men’s T20 squad training session at Castle Avenue Cricket Ground in Dublin. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Paul Stirling during an Ireland men’s T20 squad training session at Castle Avenue Cricket Ground in Dublin. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

And for Irish players, who crave more top-class cricket against the elite nations, winning this series – or even one of the games against Pakistan – will remind the International Cricket Council not to forget about Ireland or the other midtier countries.

‘It’s going to be a challenging couple of weeks ahead of the World Cup,’ Delany said of a spell that will also include a trination warm-up against Scotland and the Dutch in the Netherlands. ‘But we are excited about what lies ahead.’

Shadab Khan during a Pakistan men’s T20 squad training session at Castle Avenue Cricket Ground in Dublin. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Shadab Khan during a Pakistan men’s T20 squad training session at Castle Avenue Cricket Ground in Dublin. Pic: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

IRELAND SQUAD: Paul Stirling (Capt), Mark Adair, Ross Adair, Andrew Balbirnie, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Graham Hume, Barry McCarthy, Neil Rock, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White, Craig Young.

IRELAND FIXTURES: T20I series (all 3pm, Clontarf): Ireland v Pakistan, Today, Sunday and Tuesday. Tri-Nations series: May 19: Ireland v Netherlands, Voorburg, 4pm; May 20: Ireland v Scotland, Voorburg, 5pm; May 23: Ireland v Scotland, Voorburg, 11am; May 24: Ireland v Netherlands, Voorburg, 11am.

WORLD CUP (all 3.30pm Irish time): May 31: Ireland v Sri Lanka (warm-up, Florida); June 5: Ireland v India (New York); June 7: Ireland v Canada (New York), June 14: Ireland v USA (Florida), June 16: Ireland v Pakistan (Florida)

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