EIGHT MONTHS AFTER sealing qualification on home soil, Ireland embark on another World Cup campaign today determined to make their mark on the global stage once again.
The ICC World Twenty20 provides Ireland with another opportunity to exhibit their credentials amongst the game’s elite and further display the nation’s growing cricketing stature.
William Porterfield and his team-mates have produced imposing, and indelible, performances at each of the last eight limited-overs tournaments but the expectations heighten every time.
Twelve months ago, Ireland narrowly missed out on progressing to the quarter-finals of the 50-over World Cup in Australia/New Zealand and a similar achievement would be some feat this time around.
That’s not a reflection of the team but the odds are stacked against them with the hand they’ve been dealt.
The structure of this biennial 20-over tournament gives Ireland, and the other Associate nations, another hurdle to negotiate if they are to earn a place in the Super 10s with the big boys.
When and where is the tournament?
The tournament, which starts on Tuesday morning, is being hosted by India with eight cities staging games over the course of the four-week event.
Fixtures are being played in Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Mohali, Nagpur, Dharamsala, Mumbai and Kolkata.
The initial preliminary round (more on that below) runs until 13 March with the Super 10 stage commencing on 15 March. The final takes place at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday 3 April.
Which teams are involved and how did they qualify?
The ICC’s decision to ‘expand’ this tournament two years ago means Ireland enter the event at the so-called group stage.
They, along with five other Associate nations, and Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will battle it out for just two berths in the Super 10s with the sport’s protagonists.
Ireland are in Group A alongside Bangladesh, Netherlands and Oman while Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Scotland and Hong Kong are in Group B.
The winner of each of the groups will earn a place in the ‘main draw’. If John Bracewell’s side can progress, they will meet Australia, India, New Zealand and Pakistan in Group 2.
The other teams in Group 1 are England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and West Indies.
The six Associate nations booked their place in India via the qualifying tournament which was co-hosted by Ireland and Scotland last summer. The full member nations automatically qualified.
When are Ireland’s games?
- Wednesday 9 March v Oman, Dharamsala, 2pm.
- Friday 11 March v Bangladesh, Dharamsala, 2pm.
- Sunday 13 March v Netherlands, Dharamsala, 9.30am.
What do Ireland have to do to get through to the Super 10s?
There is no margin for error in this tournament and Ireland will need to win all three group games if they are to progress. Two years ago, they slipped up in their final outing, coincidentally against Netherlands, as the Dutch advanced at their expense.
Although Ireland have been the kingpins of Associate cricket for the last decade and have consistently produced on the biggest stage, they face a stiff task at this tournament.
Twenty20 cricket is not their strongest format and much of the team’s success has been in the 50-over game while Bangladesh are arguably stronger than some of the sides in the main draw.
How long are the games?
Twenty20 is cricket’s shortest format and should a game go the full length (20 overs per side plus a 20-minute interval), it will be over in about three hours.
Where can I watch the games?
The tournament is being shown live on Sky Sports and all three of Ireland’s initial group games are on Sky Sports 2.
Anything else I need to know?
Yes, actually. It’s not just all about the men because the women’s World Twenty20 begins next week and Ireland have also qualified for that tournament.
We’ll have all the details of that tournament before Ireland’s first game, against New Zealand on Friday 18 March.
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