William Porterfield aims for the top
Ireland enter the World T20 qualifiers with a sizeable weight of expectation upon them. They have positioned themselves at the head of the chasing pack of Associate nations, with plans in place for a push to Test cricket. For Ireland, qualification for the World T20 is essential.
Ireland's stock rose significantly after their famous win over England in March. That result heightened interest in cricket from the Emerald Isle and the team has responded. They ran England close again in August and since September, they have played 15 matches and won 12. More than enough encouragement for their captain, William Porterfield, to believe his side are moving closer to the Test nations.
"It will be a massive tournament because we want to be competing with the best teams," Porterfield said. "It is part of our long-term goals so all our effort will be channeled towards achieving that dream.
"We have played a lot more cricket against the major teams and have shown that we belong. In addition, our lads have played a lot of T20 cricket for counties in England so all that experience is going to help the side in the tournament."
Ireland were last in action against Kenya in Mombasa, winning the T20 series 3-0. They will remain in southern Africa until five days before the tournament begins on March 13 in the UAE.
"The camp in Port Elizabeth has been about fine tuning our T20 skills," Porterfield said. "The past few weeks have been a good reminder about our abilities. We are confident that we have covered all aspects of our game." Ireland's preparations included a warm-up T20 against Eastern Province which they lost by 21 runs. Chasing 148, they were 75 for 2 before collapsing to 127 all out.
Ireland have already made progress in their climb up the cricketing ladder, becoming the first Associate nation to earn a place in the ICC T20 Championship table - that England currently top - after completing the criterion of having played in eight or more T20 matches since August 2009.
Drawn against Kenya, Scotland, Namibia, Oman, Italy, Uganda and USA in Group B, Ireland hope to their rise can continue and they can earn their place at the World T20 in September, where they feel they belong.