Ireland v ZImbabwe, Group A, Jamaica March 14, 2007

All set for an even battle



Stuart Matsikenyeri: the only member of the ZImbabwe squad who played the last World Cup © Getty Images

Every single World Cup since 1992 has seen a major upset, and Ireland and Zimbabwe could be forgiven for looking too far ahead as they square off in Group D's battle of the minnows.

These are heady times for Irish sport, with the rugby team having clinched their third Triple Crown in four years, and the team that Trent Johnston leads will fancy their chances against Zimbabwe, especially after they gave South Africa an almighty scare in a warm-up game at St Augustine.

Dave Langford-Smith and Johnston himself did the damage with the ball in that game, as South Africa slumped to 91 for 8. As Johnston said at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday, it was "just unfortunate that they had a guy with a Test hundred batting at No. 9 [Andrew Hall]."

Will Porterfield, Andre Botha and Kevin O'Brien made runs in that defeat, and Johnston was confident that Ireland could trump Zimbabwe if they "executed the basics". The team have also been aided by Phil Simmons, the former West Indian opener who will take over as coach when Adrian Birrell steps down after the World Cup.

For Zimbabwe, it's a question of proving the doubters wrong. Enfeebled by players moving to pastures new, and not helped by the continuing instability back home, they're desperate to avoid defeat to an associate nation. Such a reverse would be an almighty setback as they bid to regain Test status, but both Kevin Curran, the coach, and Prosper Utseya, the captain, were quietly confident that Zimbabwe could put pressure on the more fancied teams in the group.

Of the squad, only Stuart Matsikenyeri played at the last World Cup, and Utseya admitted that his experience and inputs had been invaluable. Curran cited Vusi Sibanda, Elton Chigumbura and Sean Williams as players with the ability to make a mark at the highest level, and much will also be expected from the likes of Utseya, Anthony Ireland and Brendon Taylor.

The pitch had a smattering of grass and the captain who wins the toss will most likely exercise the bowl-first option. And though the crowd isn't expected to be anything like as large as it was for the opening game, a few hundred travelling Irish could well transform a stand or two into a pond of green. And whatever the result, they'll savour the experience.

Click here to select your teams for this match.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo

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