Ireland wanted points on the board and they got two of them, but things couldn't have been worse. A 196-run hammering in the tournament opener against West Indies followed by a washout against Bangladesh leaves them bottom placed and means that another defeat would put them on the brink of elimination. They have plenty of problems but they start at the top. Captain William Porterfield averages a shade over 11 this year from six innings, less than even Boyd Rankin. It's not that he has been terribly out of nick but in his last four innings he has contrived to fall in different ways after getting a start.
But the greater concern remains the impenetrability of their bowling attack, particularly on flat surfaces with an older ball. Since January 2018, they have taken the least number of wickets between overs 15 and 40 among Full Members: 55. Even UAE have done marginally better than them. Keeping that in mind, and despite the fact that they conceded 381 against West Indies in the first match, their best bet might be to chase down a score, much like Bangladesh did in the second match of the series.
Bowling hasn't been West Indies' strong suit either, as they have the worst average, least number of wickets and third-highest economy rate among Full Members since January 2018. However, they at least have pace, which proved to be a major difference between the two teams in the first match. Another key and admittedly obvious difference was the top order, despite the absence of Chris Gayle and Shimron Hetmyer. Shai Hope, perhaps the best batsman in the tournament, already has two hundreds, but that has also meant that the middle order hasn't had much of a hit, which showed in the last match against Bangladesh where they finished with an under-par261 for 9 from 205 for 2 in the 41st over. Apart from that, a better fielding effort than the one against Bangladesh would go a long way in securing a spot in the final.
Ireland LLWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LWWLW
In the spotlight
Darren Bravo is averaging just a shade over 28 since his return to the side against Bangladesh in December. It isn't much lower than his career average of 31 but for a player of his class, it has to be considered paltry. Furthermore, he has only one fifty during this period which suggests that he has tended to squander starts. So far, he has had only one decent opportunity in the tri-nation series and in that he meekly prodded forward and edged a straight ball from Shakib Al Hasan to the keeper. West Indies need him to step up.
After Andy Balbirnie, Paul Stirling has been the second-best batsman among active players for Ireland since 2018. However, he hasn't scored a hundred in 12 innings since March 2018. He was cleaned up lazily playing down the wrong line to a Kemar Roach loosener in the last match and before that against England, perished to another soft dismissal off Tom Curran for 33. In his last 12 innings, he has passed double figures on nine occasions, but only three of those are 50-plus scores. Ireland need their opener to start converting his starts into substantial scores to consistently compete against strong batting sides.
The change Ireland could consider is roping in Boyd Rankin for Tim Murtagh, who was economical against England, expensive against West Indies but averages 63 with the ball this year - although majority of those matches were in spin-friendly Dehradun.
Ireland (probable): 1 William Porterfield, 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Andy Balbirnie, 4 Lorcan Tucker, 5 Kevin O'Brien, 6 Gary Wilson, 7 George Dockrell, 8 Mark Adair, 9 Josh Little, 10 Tim Murtagh/Boyd Rankin, 11 Barry McCarthy
After smashing 179 in the tournament opener, John Campbell missed the last match against Bangladesh with a sore back and Sunil Ambris opened in his place. Campbell should be back for the clash against Ireland, with Ambris likely to drop down the order again.
West Indies (probable): 1 John Campbell, 2 Shai Hope, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Roston Chase, 5 Jonathan Carter, 6 Sunil Ambris, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Shannon Gabriel
Pitch and conditions
Heavy rain washed out the Ireland-Bangladesh clash on Thursday but a clearer day is expected in Dublin on Saturday. With all the rainfall lately, there could be something on offer for the seamers, which might suit Ireland more than West Indies, who have quicker bowlers, thus bowl a slightly shorter length than what would be ideal on a moisture-laden pitch.
Stats and trivia
The 196-run defeat against West Indies was Ireland's heaviest batting second since 2015, overall their fifth heaviest.
Another hundred from Shai Hope on Saturday will make him the tenth batsman to score three consecutive centuries in ODIs, and the only West Indian on that list