Had Ireland's team bus pulled into Seddon Park an hour earlier than it did, their players would have had - even from the parking lot - a taste of what is in store for them. The sound of a conch being blown and nationalistic chants from the vanguard of India's support base in Hamilton echoed around the intimate ground. The Irish have had a passionate fan-following everywhere they have played in New Zealand and Australia, but they will be outnumbered by many to one on Tuesday.

It is onto a partisan and unfamiliar stage that William Porterfield will lead his men in their penultimate Group B game. Of Ireland's 94 ODIs - and they have been playing them since 2006 - only two have been against India, and that frequency is unlikely to improve significantly in the future. None of them play in the IPL either, with hard-hitting allrounder Kevin O'Brien failing to attract bids at the player auction.

This match is also likely to be Ireland's only World Cup game against one of cricket's Big Three teams; an administrative power group that - if it wished - could easily make the 2019 tournament more inclusive than it is intended to be at present. Ireland are considered the flag-bearers of Associate teams - a label Porterfield detests - so it is an opportunity to make a statement.

However, all Ireland need to do is to look after their bottom-line and the rest will take care of itself. They are level on points with South Africa and Pakistan, and two ahead of West Indies at No. 5, with a game in hand over all three. All they need is one point from their remaining two games to achieve their pre-tournament goal. A place in the World Cup quarter-final has never been so close this early.

It is a heady position to be in, but Porterfield was steely in his view that the challenge ahead was like any other; it just "happens to be against India".

"We're in a good place, so we've just got to bring that form into tomorrow," he said. "Like any other game we're going into it looking for a win. Tomorrow isn't any different. We've approached each game with great clarity and great professionalism. We've prepared really well. It's a quicker turnaround for this game than what we've necessarily had before but it's a good place we're in and we've got to start afresh tomorrow."

Tomorrow, however, is Ireland's toughest challenge yet, and that's despite being taken for over 400 by South Africa. India are a radically transformed side from the shambles they were during the tri-series in Australia and have brought their big-tournament temperament to crush their first four group-stage opponents. All of their batsmen have got runs, their bowlers have dismissed three sides for under 200 and the other for 224, and their fielding is third to New Zealand and Australia, but not by a whole lot. They ran out AB de Villiers.

Given the form India are in, there is no obvious chink in their game. "We've seen how hard India came at West Indies with the ball so I don't think they've necessarily got a weaker suit as such," Porterfield said. "We've just got to start well tomorrow.

"We've got to try and restrict them with the ball and take wickets. Like any game in this format, taking wickets is the best way of restricting teams. We've got to go out there with that mentality throughout the 50 overs of taking wickets. Whatever we do first, the first ten overs is going to be big, if that's with the bat or ball, we have to start the game well and get into it."

Ireland have not had a problem starting well with the bat. They chased down West Indies' 304 and UAE's 278, and scored 331 batting first against Zimbabwe. They have had to, because their bowling problems are severe. They conceded 411 against South Africa and beat Zimbabwe by only five runs. To give their batsmen some respite, Ireland's attack - and especially their fast bowlers - will have to significantly raise their game on Seddon Park's small dimensions. Their first shot at cementing a quarter-final spot will hinge on it.

"It's where we want to be, the quarter-finals is the goal we set ourselves before we came here. We're in a nice position but it doesn't count for anything if we don't keep putting in those performances.

"Obviously for the country, getting through to the quarter-finals, the publicity and the hype back home at the minute, it's right up there … if you speak to people who are back home, the stories coming out of there are great, and that's where cricket is going in Ireland. Hopefully we do make those quarter-finals and keep pushing on as a country ourselves. Hopefully the ICC takes notice and we start looking at the next World Cup."

Ireland will be confronted by an ace opponent and a vociferously partisan crowd. They will do well to shut everything out, play their A game, and hope it is enough to bring them two points. That's their bottom line.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo