Ireland seek another big scalp
Match factsFebruary 19, 2014
Start time 2pm local (1900 GMT)
West Indies have previously proved themselves to be friends of Irish cricket and the invitation to play two T20s and an ODI a few weeks before the World Twenty20 is a significant one. Ireland need increased exposure against Full Member opposition if they are to fulfil their ambitions for developing the game and this tour is something of a step up from previous trips to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
There is poignancy attached to the venue for the three matches, too, as it was in Jamaica, at Sabina Park, that Ireland first shook the established order, when they beat Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup. Even if they don't manage a repeat, the sense is that Ireland are increasingly pushing at the boundaries and could become the 11th Test nation before their 2020 deadline.
Ireland struggled while taking part in the Regional Super50, twice losing heavily before winning a dead rubber, but the games will have been a useful workout after several weeks of inactivity. West Indies, apparently aware to the dangers posed by the premier Associate, have picked a full-strength squad and welcome back Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy, among others, ahead of the visit of England. They may have extended a helping hand to Ireland but the reigning World T20 champions will not be giving out charity.
Form guide(last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LLLLW
Watch out forChris Gayle has not played any senior cricket since injuring a hamstring on West Indies' tour of India and he describes himself as "99% fit". Ahead of the World Twenty20, in which he will be a vital component of West Indies' defence, and the new IPL season, Gayle may perhaps not quite be in top gear - but 99% will sound ominous enough to Ireland.
Although only 21, George Dockrell has been one of Ireland's key players for a few years. The tall left-arm spinner will have a huge role to play in Bangladesh, where Ireland will aim to qualify for the main group stage at the expense of Zimbabwe, and he found some form in the third of Ireland's Regional Super50 games, taking 3 for 14 from seven overs.
Teams newsSammy returns to captain West Indies having missed the two defeats in New Zealand, while Gayle has said he expects to open with Dwayne Smith, back in the T20 side after more than a year. Krishmar Santokie, with his unorthodox left-arm action, could win only his third cap, having impressed in last year's Caribbean Premier League, while Ravi Rampaul is also in contention to replace the discarded Tino Best.
West Indies (possible) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Dwayne Smith, 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Andre Fletcher 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Andre Russell, 7 Darren Sammy (capt) 8 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 9 Ravi Rampaul, 10 Sunil Narine, 11 Samuel Badree
Ireland have entered a new era, without the retired Trent Johnston, and they are still working out how to balance their side - a situation not helped by the absence of experienced allrounder John Mooney, who left the tour due to a stress-related illness. There will be a new face or two in the XI, with Andy McBrine, Stuart Thompson, James Shannon and Craig Young - all 23 or younger - competing to make an impression ahead of the World T20.
Ireland (possible) 1 William Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Ed Joyce, 4 Kevin O'Brien, 5 Gary Wilson (wk), 6 Niall O'Brien, 7 Alex Cusack, 8 Max Sorensen, 9 George Dockrell, 10 Tim Murtagh, 11 Craig Young
Pitch and conditions
Sabina Park will conjure up mental images of pace and bounce but it is unlikely to be quite so intimidating, not least because of the surfeit of medium pace and spin likely to be on show. Sri Lanka racked up 348 for 1 in an ODI in Kingston last year, though the threat of rain could make batting more difficult on this occasion.
Stats and trivia
- This match will be the first T20 international held at Sabina Park.
- In six international encounters, West Indies have beaten Ireland four times, with two no-results.
- The teams have met at each of the last two World Twenty20 tournaments.
Quotes"We can't take them for granted. When you play against teams you're expected to beat, you get complacent but we just need to bat, bowl and field well and give a clinical performance."
Darren Sammy says that mistaking the Ireland team for minnows could backfire against them.
"If there's one regret, it's that we haven't recorded even more wins against Full Members ... That's something we're keen to rectify, hopefully starting this week."
Ireland's captain William Porterfield invokes the memory of beating Pakistan seven years ago
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here