Porterfield itching to beat Namibia
Ahead of Ireland's clash against Namibia - the Intercontinental Cup leaders - their captain, William Porterfield, has welcomed back a number of key players and is ready for the challenge of trying to lead his team into the final.
As it stands, Namibia are odds-on to make it to the final, with 102 points - six ahead of Kenya who are in second place. Ireland are down in fourth position on 72 points but, crucially, have a game in hand; if they secure the maximum 40 points from the last two matches (they face Kenya later this month), they'll be through to the final.
It is a tall ask, but Porterfield remains confident his side have what it takes. "We have pretty much a full-strength squad, which is a great boost for us," he said. "There is great variation in our batting and bowling. We are fortunate to have a number of left-handers in the batting line-up. No-one enjoys bowling to a right-left partnership so that is certainly an advantage for us.
"Also, our bowling attack has variation. It's good to have big Boyd [Rankin] back. He has been playing well for Warwickshire lately and he always offers something different. His extra height gives him more bounce and that could be crucial on the good batting track in Namibia.
"Having Trent [Johnston] back in the squad is good news for us - it's a real boost to the strength of the squad given what he can do with both bat and ball. He enjoys the four-day format and his experience will be invaluable to me as captain. I've learned a lot about the four-day game playing for Gloucestershire but I will also be drawing on Trent's experience as well as others in the team."
With the likes of Kyle McCallan, Andrew White and Kevin O'Brien, there will be no shortage of experience for Porterfield to lean on, though there are also a number of new faces keen to demonstrate their potential, not least the talented trio of Gary Wilson, Andrew Poynter and Phil Eaglestone.
For all their confidence, however, Ireland are facing the tournament's in-form team who are unbeaten in their six matches.
"Namibia are a good side. They haven't lost a game in this year's cup and it won't be easy to win. But if we just concentrate on doing what we do well and play to the best of our ability, the result should look after itself," said Porterfield. "This is a must-win game for us. Then we have to go to Nairobi and beat Kenya as well. To win the Intercontinental Cup for the third time in a row would be massive for us. We know what it feels like to win and we are hungry for more success.
"This is a big year ahead for us. Apart from the Intercontinental Cup, we will play some ODIs in Nairobi against Kenya and Zimbabwe and then in 2009 we have the World Cup Qualifier and the ICC World Twenty20 so there will be plenty of opportunities for us."
Play gets underway on Friday in Windhoek.