Ireland, Johnston chase another title
Ireland will attempt to win their third ICC title of 2013 when they take on Afghanistan in the final of the Intercontinental Cup next week. The five-day match, to be played at the ICC Academy in Dubai from December 10-14, will also see the 39-year-old Trent Johnston play his final game for Ireland before retirement.
Johnston is part of a 14-man squad, captained by William Porterfield. Last Saturday, Ireland clinched their second successive ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier title, to go with with the WCL Championship they won earlier in the year, and the coach, Phil Simmons, is keen for further success.
"This team continues to improve and grow and their appetite for trophies and World Cups shows no sign of waning," Simmons said. "That hunger and energy is still there and there's a healthy competition for places which keeps everyone in the squad on their toes.
"This is the one trophy that's currently missing from our cabinet at the moment, and the squad is keen to rectify that."
Afghanistan are the Intercontinental Cup holders, having beaten Scotland in 2010. Eight members of their squad, including the captain, Mohammad Nabi, were part of the side that lifted the trophy in Dubai three years ago and they will provide familiar opponents for Ireland, after several memorable clashes in recent ICC tournaments.
They have contested the last three World Twenty20 Qualifier finals, as well as finishing first and second in the WCL Championship - granting both sides qualification to the 2015 World Cup. Ireland topped the Intercontinental Cup table, with 116 points to Afghanistan's 104, meaning that a draw - as occurred in their rain-hit match in Dublin - will be enough for them to regain the trophy they won three times between 2005 and 2008.
Johnston will be appearing in his fourth final, having captained Ireland to success in the 2005 and 2006-07 tournaments. Like Johnston, Andrew White is also looking for a fourth winners' medal, while top-order batsman John Anderson is the only member of the squad who wasn't involved in last month's World Twenty20 Qualifier.
Playing in the final of that tournament, Johnston recorded his maiden T20 half-century before taking three wickets. "The guys want TJ to go out on a high, as we all know how much this final means to him," Simmons said. "If he plays like he did at the weekend, then it shouldn't be a problem."
Ireland's quest to become the first side to hold all three titles at the same time will be live-streamed on the ICC's YouTube channel and via the ICC website.
Ireland squad: William Porterfield (captain), John Anderson, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Ed Joyce, John Mooney, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, Max Sorensen, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Andrew White, Gary Wilson
Afghanistan squad: Mohammed Nabi (captain), Mirwais Ashraf, Izzatullah Dawlatzai, Nawroz Mangal, Gulbadin Naib, Shabir Ahmed Noori, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Shahzad, Samiullah Shenwari, Sayed Ahmed Shirzad, Asghar Stanikzai, Dollat Zadran, Afsar Khan Zazai, Rahmat Shah Zurmati