Cyclone has hit preparations but Ireland can't afford to be blown off course by UAE

Phil Simmons’ side play their second World Cup game tonight.

Ireland had a practice session at the Gabba yesterday.
Ireland had a practice session at the Gabba yesterday.
Image: Barry Chambers/INPHO

IT SEEMS LIKE an eternity ago that Ireland ignited this World Cup into life with a dazzling and stellar performance against a rudderless West Indies but last week’s four wicket victory will count for nothing if Phil Simmons’ side come unstuck against United Arab Emirates in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The result in Nelson blew Pool B wide open but in the nine days that have passed, the group has begun to take shape and a slip-up in Brisbane (3.30am Irish time) would derail Ireland’s quest to reach the knock-out stages for the second time in three tournaments.

The opening stages of this six-week long World Cup has been played amidst the narrative of the so-called ‘Associates’ standing up to the Full Members, both on and off the field, and Ireland’s dismantling of one of cricket’s protagonists added further weight to the cause.

In the last week alone, iconic figures such as Sachin Tendulkar, Michael Vaughan and Mahela Jayawardene have publicly condemned the ICC’s decision to restrict the 2019 World Cup to just ten teams. The protestations are growing louder by the day.

But, Ireland know their every move is under close surveillance and faltering against Associate counterparts UAE at the Gabba would be a setback they may find difficult to recover from.

After a couple of days of rest and recovery on the Gold Coast, Ireland’s preparations for their second fixture were curbed by heavy rain and high winds as Cyclone Marcia struck the east coast of Australia.

George Dockrell warms up George Dockrell starred in Nelson and will be expected to play a big part against UAE Source: Barry Chambers/INPHO

The co-hosts’ clash against Bangladesh at the same venue was abandoned without a ball being bowled on Saturday but the weather isn’t expected to play such a defining part on Wednesday – the last thing Ireland need is a no-result.

The squad were forced to train indoors over the weekend but got their first taste of the 42,000-seater ground yesterday as the good weather returned to Queensland.

“It was a nice start but there are a lot of games to come, both personally and as a team so looking forward to getting into it now,” George Dockrell said on the eve of the match.

“It’s a fantastic stadium, really looking forward to seeing what the atmosphere is like.  There’s been a good few Irish arriving over the past few days.”

On paper, Ireland should have far too much strength and experience for UAE but they will also be targeting this game as an opportunity to record their first World Cup win since 1996.

Made up of semi-professionals, the UAE are a relatively unknown quantity and ran Zimbabwe close in their opening game before the Africans’ nous eventually told.

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In the last meeting between the sides, Ireland proved too strong for the Emirates outfit, comfortably coming out on top in last year’s World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. Indeed, history is very much on Ireland’s side having won 11 of the 13 encounters.

With a 14.30pm local start time, the toss will once again be crucial particularly because neither side have played a day/night game in the tournament thus far. Ireland prefer chasing but may opt to bat first if they get the choice in anticipation of the ball moving around under the lights later in the contest.

The Irish players in the Gabba today The Gabba is one of cricket's iconic grounds Source: Barry Chambers/INPHO

“Also it’s quite a big pitch and ground so it will be interesting to see how that plays out, I suppose I’ll be looking forward to it as a spinner, trying to use the big boundaries and trying to get people to hit me,” Dockrell added.

With a full deck to choose from, Simmons is unlikely to make changes, if any, from the opening game. That said, the pitch at the Gabba is likely to be hard and flat and in Craig Young, Ireland have a bowler with an additional yard of pace in his armoury.

Should the management decide to include the 24-year-old, Max Sorensen is most vulnerable after struggling to find his radar against the Windies.

John Mooney suffered bouts of cramp during that game but it later emerged he had been afflicted by a stomach bug at the Saxton Oval.

The onus will once again be on the top-order to lay the foundation but both Gary Wilson and Kevin O’Brien will be keen to spend time in the middle and find their form after enduring a barren period with the bat.

For many, complacency is Ireland’s biggest threat but having gone from underdogs to favourites in the space of a match, there is little danger William Porterfield and his team mates will take their opposition lightly.

UAE are captained by 43-year-old Mohammad Tauqir while Ireland will no doubt have earmarked Khurram Khan, also 43, and a flight purser for Emirates Airlines by trade, as the danger man.

After a two decade absence from the biggest stage, the UAE will be determined to take one abiding memory from this World Cup. Ireland will hope they remain the sideshow, for this game at least.

Originally published at 07.50

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Ryan Bailey

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