Ireland eye another chance to shine
Thursday, May 23, Dublin
Start time 10.45 local (09.45 GMT | 14.45 PKT)
Contests between Ireland and Pakistan are rare - this will be only their fourth meeting - but the fixture has a place in cricket folklore. Labelled as minnows, Ireland produced a monumental upset to send Pakistan crashing out of the 2007 World Cup in the group stage. Pakistan's pain has healed over time but the memory of that embarrassment lingers.
Pakistan put the record straight with victories in their last series against Ireland - two matches in May 2011, both won comfortably - and will hope for similar success as they warm up for the Champions Trophy.
They are in good spirits but would like their top-order batting to find some form. An extra opener has been drafted into the XI so Mohammad Hafeez can move to No. 3, hoping to solidify the batting which can be brittle, as seen against Scotland last week when they slipped to 115 for 5. It took Misbah-ul-Haq to anchor the innings but a score of 231 would not be enough against better sides, and Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer admitted that, from a similar position, Ireland would likely to have gone and won the match.
Keeping Pakistan to a similar total will be key for Ireland to try and upset the odds. After cruising through the latest round of World Cricket League Championship matches in March, they are desperate to prove they belong at the top table of international cricket. It is important Ireland seize on any opportunity to impress. Last year's ODI against Australia was a damp squib but this year, two matches against Pakistan and the biennial fixture against England are three more chances to put on a good show on and off the field.
They have a bowling attack capable of troubling Pakistan, likely to be spearheaded by Tim Murtagh who has shown sublime form for Middlesex and is the leading wicket-taker in the County Championship. Ireland's batting will also be led by a man bang in form for his county; Ed Joyce has averaged 72.75 in six Championship innings for Sussex.
But Pakistan's attack will ask more testing questions of Joyce and Ireland's line-up. Junaid Khan proved he is capable of leading the attack with 3 for 19 against Scotland. He assumed the senior role from Umar Gul, who remains sidelined with a knee injury. The threat of Saeed Ajmal remains, albeit in less helpful conditions.
Form guide(Most recent first, completed matches only)
Watch out for
Kevin O'Brien might have no specific plans to tackle Saeed Ajmal but appeared confident to deal with the world's No. 1-ranked ODI bowler. He is one of the senior players and has been the backbone for the side. His role in the middle order is pivotal.
Mohammad Irfan is very tall already but his stature as a bowler at least, continues to grow. He is better than his 1 for 28 against Scotland and the Ireland batsmen must be wary of deliveries sent down from over seven feet.
Ireland named an unchanged squad from their two victories in the World Cricket League Championship in March. John Mooney is serving the final game of a three-match ban and Tim Murtagh, picked for Ireland's last two home ODIs, is likely to return to the XI.
Ireland (possible): 1 William Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Ed Joyce, 4 Niall O'Brien (wkt), 5 Gary Wilson, 6 Kevin O'Brien, 7 Andrew White, 8 Alex Cusack, 9 Trent Johnston, 10 Tim Murtagh, 11 George Dockrell
Since Pakistan's outing in Ireland is a part of their practice for the Champions Trophy, they are unlikely to make any major changes to the XI that defeated Scotland on May 17.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Imran Farhat, 2 Nasir Jamshed, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Asad Shafiq, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Umar Amin, 7 Kamran Akmal (wkt), 8 Saeed Ajmal, 9 Junaid Khan, 10 Mohammad Irfan, 11 Ehsan Adil/Wahab Riaz
Pitch and conditions
Ireland will be hoping for better weather than their marquee ODI last year against Australia, where rain only allowed 10 overs of the match to be played. The moist climate will make swing bowling a big factor but just two years ago, Ireland racked up 328 on the ground, suggesting the wickets at Clontarf are not just bowling paradises.
Stats and trivia
- Since the beginning of 2010, Ireland have a 17-15 win-loss record in ODIs, bettered only by Afghanistan (12-10) among non-Test-playing teams.
- Paul Stirling, the Ireland opener, is the only player to score a century in ODIs between these two teams: he scored 109 in Belfast in 2011, in a match Ireland lost by five wickets.
- In two ODIs and one T20I against Ireland, Saeed Ajmal has taken 11 wickets at an average of 5.54 and an economy rate of 3.58. In two ODIs, he has seven wickets at an average of 6.00 and an economy rate of 3.23
"We've always got a chance in our conditions. We've turned in some strong performances in recent years and we're getting stronger all the time."
Ireland coach, Phil Simmons eyes on another upset.
"I remember him, and he's got some hundreds under his belt since. We're looking to execute our plans against him."
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq recalls Paul Stirling's run-a-ball hundred in the previous meeting between the sides.