Intercontinental Cup February 13, 2007

Ireland defend title against Canada

After several months of waiting, Canada now know that they will be playing defending champions Ireland in the final of the Intercontinental Cup after Adrian Birrell's side defeated the United Arab Emirates inside three days this week to make sure they topped Group A.

After what had been a relatively disappointing set of results in the recent World Cricket League Division 1 in Nairobi, Ireland were determined to set the record straight and return to winning ways. And they did it in style, taking the game by the scruff of the neck on the first morning and never relinquishing their grip. They eventually won the game by an innings and 170 runs, demonstrating that although they did not perform in Kenya, Ireland are still very much a force to be reckoned with at this level.

This sets up a final between Ireland and Andy Pick's Canada, at a date and venue yet to be decided but most likely it will be at a neutral ground some time towards the end of May.

Ireland's bowlers had received criticism for their performances in Nairobi so it was telling that they were able to take 20 UAE wickets with a day to spare on what were excellent conditions for batting.

"I was delighted with how the players responded after Kenya," said Ireland coach Adrian Birrell, who was using the extra day in the UAE to work on his golf swing. "I have never seen a team more determined to win than we were in Abu Dhabi. We were disappointed after Kenya but not disheartened and we took control of the match, more or less from ball one.

"The tournament in Kenya wasn't all bad. We lost by the narrowest of margins and in cruel circumstances. These days we are expected to beat Kenya and Scotland every time we play them. But they are very good sides. They were desperately close games and I believe we were unlucky."

As for the Canadians, they will not fear Ireland despite its fine record in this competition. John Davison and his team beat the Irish during the WCL and will be confident they can do the same in the longer form of the game.

In topping Group B, Canada won their first two matches outright before losing to the Netherlands in the final game in Pretoria, which by that stage was effectively a dead rubber. Qaiser Ali, Geoff Barnett, Davison, Ian Bilcliff and Abdool Samad had all been in the runs as Canada proved too strong for Kenya and Bermuda at King City, near Toronto last August.

The new global format in the ICC Intercontinental Cup means sides play a minimum of three four-day matches in the tournament, increasing to seven four-day matches in 2007 and 2008 when it is hoped the event will be a full round-robin format.

That compares to a minimum of just two three-day matches per year under the previous structure which, until the semi-finals, was regionally-based rather than global.

This is an edited version of an ICC media release

James Fitzgerald is ICC Communications Officer