World Twenty20 2012 September 18, 2012

Can Ireland spring more surprises?


The exploits of the Ireland team at global ICC tournaments have become a colourful side narrative in recent years, from the thrilling humiliations of Pakistan and England at successive World Cups to their ousting of Bangladesh in the World Twenty20 group stage in 2009.

Ireland have put in place a roadmap to playing Test cricket and despite the talent drain across the Irish Sea - Boyd Rankin will retire after the tournament in the bid to pursue a career with England - they have built solid foundations in the limited-overs formats. Briefly ranked above Australia in T20Is earlier this month, the group meeting between the two will be eagerly anticipated by schadenfreude fans the world over, as well as by Ireland's miserly attack leader Trent Johnston, born in Wollongong, New South Wales, 38 years ago.

A hard-working team, Ireland have several players capable of making the difference in tight games. Allrounder Kevin O'Brien is instantly recognisable - even without the mangy purple dye job - after his record-breaking innings in Bangalore, while Paul Stirling and William Porterfield provide a potentially explosive opening partnership and Niall O'Brien brings experience of playing in the Bangladesh Premier League. If the ball swings, Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh could be a canny addition to their set-up.

Key players

George Dockrell tends to play in red boots but that is not the only eye-catching thing about him. A tall left-arm spinner, the 20-year-old impressed for Somerset during the English domestic season and was the county's leading T20 wicket-taker, despite missing finals day while on duty at the Under-19 World Cup. You don't have to be Peter Falk to work out that his form in Colombo could be crucial.

Surprise package

Wicketkeeper Gary Wilson is a pugnacious batsman who has increasingly demonstrated his worth after deputising for the absent Niall O'Brien at the World Twenty20 Qualifier in March. He finished the county season as Surrey's first choice keeper and has made all three of his T20 half-centuries this year.


It seems odd to say it for one of the tournament minnows but Ireland will have to deal with the expectation that comes with being serial jack-in-the-boxes. Neither Australia nor West Indies will be taking them lightly and their chances of springing out of Group B rest on their ability to play with the same freedom that has characterised previous campaigns.

World T20 history

Ireland failed to qualify in 2007 but reached the super eights two years later, beating Bangladesh out of their group. They left the Caribbean in a right funk in 2010, after rain denied them the chance to chase England's meagre total of 120 and they were eliminated on net run-rate.

Recent form

A planned four-match series with South Africa A in August was abandoned due to poor weather and, prior to that, Ireland lost 3-0 at home to Bangladesh - though some measure of revenge was achieved in their final warm-up match. Ireland won 10 out 11 games at the World Twenty20 Qualifier, beating Afghanistan in the final, and have played much more T20 cricket this year than most of the Full Members.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo