Ireland v Canada, Intercontinental Cup, Dublin August 6, 2008

Ireland quest for hat-trick of titles continues

Cricinfo staff

Andre Botha will have a key role to play against Canada © Getty Images

After the excitement of qualifying for the World Twenty20 tournament in England next year, it's back to first-class cricket for Ireland on Thursday as they aim for a hat-trick of Intercontinental Cup titles.

With the top of the table tight and four sides vying for two final places, a win for Ireland is a must - and Kyle McCallan's side needs to achieve that against Canada, the team they beat in the 2007 final.

It's been almost 15 months since that one-sided encounter at Grace Road, Leicester, and plenty has changed in that time. Both teams have new captains and Canada have been unable to maintain the form they showed to reach the final on that occasion.

One win in six matches tells its own story. Canada have struggled to replace the runs of Ashish Bagai - playing just once because of work commitments - and the penetration with the ball of Umar Bhatti.

Last year, left-armer Bhatti and Henry Osinde formed perhaps the best new-ball attack in the Associate world but in this campaign Bhatti has played only half the matches and although Osinde has captured 15 wickets in five matches, those wickets have come at almost 34 runs apiece.

Canada's other problem has been its turnover of players. For one reason or another it has been unable to pick a settled side: they have used 29 players in six matches with only one player, Sunil Dhaniram, playing in every game. Dhaniram has been one of the few highlights for Canada with 472 runs at 59.00 and 17 wickets at 25.17 with his left-arm spin.

Ireland have the belief that it can win this match with a full haul of 20 points. And if it can do that, depending on the result of the Scotland-Kenya match, they could go to the top of the table ahead of long-time leaders Namibia. Ireland's other two remaining matches are against Namibia and other rivals Kenya.

Trent Johnston is in the side but Ireland are without county players Eoin Morgan and Niall O'Brien. Morgan missed the European Championships with a knee injury and also sat out the World Twenty20 Qualifiers, while wicketkeeper-batsman O'Brien heads back to Northamptonshire.

Fintan McAllister has been called up as replacement wicketkeeper as Gary Wilson is required by Surrey.

Ireland (from) Kyle McCallan (capt), Andre Botha, Peter Connell, Alex Cusack, Finton McAllister, Thinus Fourie, Trent Johnston, Kevin O'Brien, Andrew Poynter, Paul Stirling, Reinhardt Strydom, Greg Thompson, Andrew White.

Canada (from Sanjay Thuraisingam (capt), Rustam Bhatti, Geoffrey Barnett, Harvir Baidwan, Eion Katchay, Sunil Dhaniram, Zubin Surkari, Karun Jethi, Steven Welsh, Qaiser Ali, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Mohammad Iqbal, Arvind Kandappah, Saad bin Zafar.