History and experience on Netherlands' side against young Ireland set-up
Paul Stirling's stellar form though, will be a sharp arrow in Ireland's quiver
Make what you will of the format of the T20 World Cup, which essentially tacks a qualifying round on to the front of the tournament proper, but Ireland and Netherlands know exactly what is at stake over the next few days. These two have been here before and, while both teams will have designs on taking down Sri Lanka, the only former World T20 champions obliged to participate in this stage of the competition, there is every chance they will find themselves going head-to-head for one of the two spots available.
It was at the 2014 edition in Bangladesh, which Sri Lanka went on to win, that Ireland and Netherlands played out one of the most extraordinary games
in the history of the competition. Ireland, knowing that a win in Sylhet would take them through to the Super 10 stage, posted 189 for 4 from their 20 overs; Netherlands were still in contention, but to jump above both their opponents and Zimbabwe on NRR, would need to reach the target inside 14.2 overs.
In the event, they needed just 13.5, as Stephan Myburgh
- back in the fold for this tournament - blazed 63 off 23 balls at the top of the order and the brilliant Oranje hurtled through to the main event, where they pulled off another memorable scalp by humbling England
Ireland, meanwhile, have experienced a period of transition from the golden generation that had such an impact at 50-over World Cups between 2007 and 2015. They never hit the same heights in T20, despite beating Bangladesh in 2009
, and progression from Group A here would be a significant achievement. With Paul Stirling
in the form of his life and some fresh talent beginning to push through - see Gareth Delany's unbeaten 88 from 50 balls against Bangladesh in the warm-ups
- this could be their moment to storm cricket's top table once again.
Players to watch
The partnership of Stirling and Kevin O'Brien at the top of the order is likely to be key for Ireland, as captain Andy Balbirnie noted during the build-up
. Since O'Brien, the veteran allrounder and hero of Bangalore in 2011
, moved up to open in T20Is two years ago, he and Stirling have scored 1479 runs together at an average of 39.97.
Myburgh and ten Doeschate have a combined 78 years between them and will act as standard-bearers, but also watch out for opener Max O'Dowd. In April, he scored 133 not out off 73 balls
- the highest T20I score by an Associate and fifth-highest overall. Okay, it was against Malaysia. But only one other batter made more than 31 in the match.
Ireland's build-up has been thorough, if not exactly smooth sailing. They were 3-2 victors over Zimbabwe at home in September but followed that up by losing 2-1 to UAE - who didn't manage to qualify for the World Cup. In the warm-ups, a straightforward win over Papua New Guinea
, with 23-year-old legspinner Ben White impressing, was followed by Delany's fireworks helping them to upend Bangladesh
, suggesting Ireland may have found their stride at the right time.
The Dutch have not had much of a chance to fine tune their T20 plans going into the tournament, having last played the format internationally during a tri-series in Nepal in April. They were rumbled for 91 in their first warm-up match, when chasing just 123 to beat Scotland
, but put together a more-convincing batting performance in a narrow win over Oman
. As a group, they don't play together often - so they need to gel quickly.
Stats that matter Netherlands have an excellent head-to-head record against Ireland in T20s. Going back to the 2014 World T20, they have won seven out of ten meetings, with one abandonment. Ireland's squad has eight players aged 25 or under; Netherlands have four.
"Every game is a must-win game for us. So you go out with the same intent, the same determination. I don't think over all these years I've been involved in cricket, I've ever gone out saying, 'well, it doesn't matter if we lose tomorrow'."
Ireland coach Graham Ford on the importance of victory
"We don't disrespect Ireland, we don't disrespect anyone. We think both teams are full of very good competitors and very good cricketers. But you have to perform on the day."
Netherlands coach Ryan Campbell thinks the two teams are evenly matched
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick