West Indies look to embrace rare day of superiority

Chris Gayle walks off during a rain interruption Ashley Allen - CPL T20 / Getty

Big Picture

It was in the 2015 World Cup that these teams last met - the first game of the tournament for both of them.

West Indies' decline as a Test force had slowly been established, but their limited-overs stocks were still highly rated. This was the team which, in its third match of the group stage, would put up 372 against Zimbabwe - all of those runs put together by Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels in a gargantuan second-wicket partnership, with the left-hander scoring a double-century. Before that game, they had reduced Pakistan to 1 for 4 in a chase of 311. Jerome Taylor took three of those wickets.

These results would eventually help put West Indies through to the quarter-finals, but they came after a comprehensive loss against Ireland in that first game.

It's Ireland's first fixture against a Test-playing nation since acquiring Test status. Not a lot has changed for them in the last two years. Ireland's heroes from that match - in fact, their entire top seven - will almost definitely feature in the one-off ODI at Belfast on Wednesday.

In contrast, captain Jason Holder has been the only constant for West Indies since the teams last met. Gayle, Samuels and Taylor, who led the batting and bowling charts for them in that World Cup, haven't played together in an ODI since.

Still, there is a circularity about this meeting. Both of them are on the cusp of a new dawn. Ireland have fought a long battle in achieving Test status while West Indies have shown hints of no longer being haunted by the ghosts of their past glory, picking up wins in each of their last three Test series. Ireland will soon be equipped with the experience of Graham Ford as head coach, while West Indies' resurgence is being shepherded by the hard-talking Stuart Law. At the core, both teams are trying to carve new identities; they are teams on the ascension, even if they're earmarked as the lower-tier population when the future of the game is discussed.

Neither side has quite managed to dominate anyone in ODIs off late. In that sense, their reputations remain the same. But West Indies will enjoy their chance to feel like the stronger team before they head back to England. A win will simplify their requirement for direct qualification for the next World Cup: they'll need to beat England 4-1.

Form guide

Ireland LLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)

West Indies LWLLW

In the spotlight

Paul Stirling made four fifties in a five-match series against Afghanistan earlier this year and even slipped in a six-wicket haul with improvised legspin. Then, he characteristically tapered off in the subsequent series. A couple of starts against England were followed by scores of 14, 0 and 0 in the tri-series against Bangladesh and New Zealand. Stirling is only 27, but he has been around for nine years and now is a time when Ireland need his experience to come to the fore.

In the recently-concluded Caribbean Premier League, Evin Lewis was so explosive that his partner Chris Gayle was forced to drop anchor for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots. Lewis has two T20 international hundreds, and has twice made scores in the nineties in the format over the last month. He hasn't shown anywhere near the same returns in ODIs yet, with 450 runs in 17 innings. This could be his chance to arrive.

Team news

Barry McCarthy and Craig Young have been ruled out with injuries, cutting Ireland's seam options down to four. Boyd Rankin is a sure starter alongside Tim Murtagh. Kevin O'Brien provides a seam option too, so Ireland could be tempted to play legspinner Jacob Mulder alongside George Dockrell.

Ireland (possible): 1 William Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Ed Joyce, 4 Niall O'Brien, 5 Andy Balbirnie, 6 Kevin O'Brien, 7 Gary Wilson (wk), 8 Tim Murtagh, 9 George Dockrell, 10 Jacob Mulder/Peter Chase, 11 Boyd Rankin

Roston Chase has been dropped from the ODI squad and Kyle Hope has managed 41 runs in six Test innings so far in England. Those two spots are likely to be the ones Gayle and Samuels will occupy.

West Indies (possible): 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Shai Hope (wk), 5 Jason Mohammed, 6 Jason Holder (capt), 7 Rovman Powell, 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Jerome Taylor, 11 Kesrick Williams

Pitch and conditions

Belfast isn't a high-scoring ground by modern standards - England's 301 in 2006 remains the highest total. Scores in the range of 250 to 260 have been par at the venue. But there's a high chance we will see a shortened game on Wednesday. The forecast hints at an overcast day with regular showers scattered throughout.

Stats and trivia

  • West Indies have won four out of six games against Ireland. Their only game in Ireland was washed out

  • Chris Gayle has the most centuries for a West Indian batsman - 22. He is also the third-highest run-scorer among active cricketers, behind MS Dhoni and AB de Villiers

  • William Porterfield has made more runs in ODIs this year than any previous year. He has 558 runs in 12 innings, at an average of 46.50, with two hundreds and as many fifties