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D-Day arrives for Ireland as World Cup quarter-final on the line against Pakistan

William Porterfield insists ‘it’s just another game’ but the stakes couldn’t be higher in Adelaide.

Ireland carry the hopes of a nation and the Associates.
Ireland carry the hopes of a nation and the Associates.
Image: Ross Setford

IN THE BUILD-UP to big games, it’s common practise for players to temper expectations by downplaying the significance of the result but try as they might, tonight’s showdown with Pakistan is the most important in Ireland’s cricketing history.

William Porterfield has insisted the final group game of the World Cup is ‘just another game’ for Ireland but the stakes couldn’t be higher in Adelaide.

Phil Simmons’ side currently occupy the fourth and final qualification berth in Pool B with six points on the board but Ireland know the previous three weeks of toil will count for nothing if they can’t bring another Full Member to their knees.

A fourth victory of the campaign would guarantee Ireland a place in the quarter-finals for the first time and a meeting with co-hosts Australia next Friday but defeat will, assuming West Indies get the better of UAE in Napier, send them home.

It would be a hugely underwhelming end to a campaign during which Ireland have once again showcased themselves as a country with serious cricketing pedigree.

The Boys in Green have carried the flag for the Associates in this tournament and while the narrative has pivoted on proving the sport’s hierarchy wrong, actions are far more persuasive and powerful than words.

It’s the harsh reality of a sport governed by an autocratic few but regardless of the result on Sunday, Ireland have already proved they, and their Associate counterparts, deserve a place at the top table on merit.

William Porterfield All of the Irish batsmen have scored a fifty at the tournament including captain William Porterfield Source: PHOTOSPORT/John Cowpland/INPHO

If Ireland qualify for the knock-out stages, they will become the first non-Test playing nation to do so under the new format.

“I think all the teams in the competition have provided enough evidence to justify a change in the 2019 competition regardless of what happens tomorrow,” Porterfield said.

Their immediate fate will be decided on Sunday. Ireland recorded a memorable three-wicket win over Pakistan almost eight years to the day to knock the two-time winners out of the 2007 World Cup and Porterfield is confident his side can upset the odds again.

“It’s just another game of the group in terms of preparation. Obviously result-wise it’s a key match, but you are still going to prepare like you do for each match.

“The opposition is what’s in front of you, and you have to prepare to beat them. I don’t think you can think about the outcome and put pressure on yourself.

“Some lads may think about it more than others and that may be an extra motivation factor for them. But as long as we prepare how we have done for each individual game, then we’ll be fine.”

It will be an emotional occasion for Misbah-ul-Haq’s team as that defeat in Jamaica was followed the day after by the death of their coach Bob Woolmer.

As much as an element of revenge will be on their minds, a stuttering Pakistan side will have the burden of an expectant and fanatical nation on their shoulders.

screenshot.1426364870.71305 Source: www.icc-cricket.com

But the task for Ireland couldn’t be stiffer. After a poor start to the tournament, Pakistan have won three in succession and have built up a head of steam as the business end of proceedings nears.

While they don’t have the batting firepower of India or South Africa, three left-arm quicks in their bowling ranks will provide Ireland’s in-form top-order with a different challenge.

Reports on Saturday suggested Mohammad Irfan – the spearhead of the attack – had failed to recover from a niggling hip injury but Ireland have no such problems.

They trained on the eve of the game at the recently-developed Adelaide Oval and reported a clean bit of health. Phil Simmons has been blessed throughout the tournament as he’s had a full deck to choose from and the only selection issue appears to be surrounding the decision to play a second spinner or not.

Irish fans during the game There will be plenty of support for Ireland in Adelaide Source: PHOTOSPORT/John Cowpland/INPHO

Andy McBrine has showed maturity beyond his years with the ball, particularly in the opening win over West Indies, and is expected to take the place of Stuart Thompson who made his World Cup debut against India last time out.

The pitch at the 53,000 capacity venue appeared to be dry and relatively hard on the eve of the game and although the two previous World Cup games in Adelaide have been lower-scoring contests, both sides will invariably look to bat first.

Ireland’s strength has undoubtedly been their batting and the onus will be on the top-order to provide the platform like they did in the wins over West Indies and Zimbabwe.

Ed Joyce has enjoyed a productive World Cup and has been the cog in the wheel during the tournament.

The classy left-hander has been particularly vocal in his stance against the ICC, using his considerable standing within the game to push Ireland’s case and while it will be his final World Cup, he desperately hopes tomorrow’s game won’t be Ireland’s last on the big stage.

“It’s really disappointing that we could be on the verge of Ireland’s last World Cup game for a long time,” he said.

“We have a cause that we fight for. We are trying to grow the game at home and show the ICC the folly of keeping the next World Cup to 10 teams, not allowing nations like us ourselves a fair chance to get in.

“The chance to break into the quarter-finals of a World Cup definitely makes it the biggest game we’ve ever had.”

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Ryan Bailey

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