On the 16th of February Irelandís third successive 50 over World Cup campaign will get under way against West Indies in the New Zealand South Island city of Nelson.
It is a game that will go a long way to determining whether or not Ireland can make it through to the knockout stage of cricketís flagship event. Victory for the boys in green (well florescent lime green) would leave them in pole position to qualify for the quarter finals. While defeat would not eliminate the chances of progress it would mean that in addition to beating UAE and Zimbabwe, one of South Africa, India or Pakistan would have to be overcome.
However, given the impact that Ireland has made both in 2007 and 2011, it would not be a major surprise if their 15th March encounter with Pakistan in Adelaide concludes with the leading Associate heading for Sydney to play another match rather than boarding a flight for home.
Ireland after all has proven to the cricketing world that they are not just at World Cups to make up the numbers. In their only two appearances they have won four matches and tied another. All but one of the four victories was against a Full Member.
They have the fastest World Cup hundred (Kevin OíBrien Ė 50 balls), the third fastest (Paul Stirling-70 balls), the highest ever successful run chase (329-7 against England) and the third highest (307-4 against Netherlands). Kevin OíBrien and Alex Cusack hold the record for the highest sixth wicket stand (162 against England). In addition Ireland has the largest runs margin of victory by an Associate against a Full Member (74 runs against Bangladesh in 2007). Andre Botha has the third best ever economy rate in an innings (minimum 30 balls) with 2-5 off 8 overs against Pakistan in 2007. Of the 28 second innings hundreds in World Cup cricket, Ireland (Kevin OíBrien and Paul Stirling) account for two of them.
Irelandís exploits in 2011 was instrumental in forcing ICC to change their plans to restrict this World Cup to the ten Full Member nations.
In previews of Irelandís prospects on websites they are variously described as an aging side and as young and inexperienced. The reality is somewhat different as their average age is just 27.5 with seven of the squad aged 24 or under while the other eight are aged 29 and over. It says everything about the continuity and consistency of selection that there is not a single player in the squad aged between 25 and 28. As I pointed out in my column some months ago Ireland will be the only team in this World Cup with the same top six batsmen as in 2011. Indeed it now appears likely that the team that takes the field against the West Indies will only be missing Trent Johnston and Boyd Rankin from the iconic victory against England in Bangalore.
This is primarily a result of the top players retaining their form both for Ireland and their clubs with four of the top six captaining their County sides this past season Ė two of them Ed Joyce and Gary Wilson on a full time basis.
It is also a result of having the same coach for almost eight years. Since Phil Simmons took over from Adi Birrell in April 2007 he has overseen Ireland in 218 capped matches. This is an extraordinary 25.5% of all 856 capped matches that Ireland has played since their first in September 1855. During his eight years in charge the ten Full Member sides have worked their way through no less than 45 coaches between them which has invariably led to major changes to the structure of teams. While there has been the occasional dispute between Simmons and a player there can be little doubt that the long term association of coach and squad has contributed to the internationally recognised success of our cricket team.
There has also been a degree of concern about Irelandís ability to compete this time around particularly in regard to the strength of the bowling attack. It is true that the loss of Trent Johnston is a concern as much for his role as leader of the attack as for his wickets. In the last two World Cups he took 16 wickets at an economy rate of 5.31 and a strike rate of 35.1. Boyd Rankin has the second highest number of wickets with 15 but only 3 of those were taken in 2011 at an economy rate of 5.7 and a strike rate of 110. Obviously the wickets in Australasia will be much more conducive to pace that the sub-continental surfaces of 2011 and there is no question that Rankin would be in the squad if he had been available.
The loss of Tim Murtagh is certainly a blow as after an initially unconvincing start in Ireland colours his class eventually shone through and his spells against England in Malahide and Sri Lanka in Clontarf were two of the best by an Ireland bowler against Test nations. His accuracy and movement with the new ball especially in New Zealand may well have been crucial with both the West Indies and India looking vulnerable against the moving ball.
However all is not lost in the pace bowling department as Craig Young has made enormous strides in the past 15 months. The big Bready man is now injury free after his Sussex career was sundered by a series of mishaps. He has demonstrated that he is quick enough to cause batsmen concern but more importantly he can move the ball through the air and off the wicket. While he has yet to play an ODI against a Test side he has already proved that he can take wickets against every opposition that he has faced. Craig goes into this World Cup with the best strike rate (minimum 50 overs) of any bowler among the 14 competing nations. His 16 ODI wickets have come at the rate of one every 20.5 balls and in all of his 50 over games for Ireland including those uncapped matches in the acclimatisation tour he has 35 victims at a strike rate of 21.4.
Furthermore in the entire history of ODIís which now stand at 3,598 matches only two bowlers who have delivered at least 50 overs have a better strike rate Ė Gary Gilmour of Australia in the 1970ís (16 wickets at 20.0) and somewhat bizarrely Matt Henry from New Zealand who despite 21 wickets at a strike rate of 18.7 failed to make the final 15 in his countryís squad.
Given the composition of the Ireland team in the recent tri-series in Dubai it appears that John Mooney will be the opening bowling partner of Craig Young. Now while Peter Chase is much quicker than Mooney it is unlikely than he will effectively make his ODI debut (he was listed to play against Scotland in the match that was abandoned without a ball bowled) in such a vital match. It should not be overlooked that Mooney was the leading wicket taker in 2011 when he snared 10 victims at an average of 25.9, economy rate of 5.75 and a strike rate of 27.
Kevin OíBrien and Alex Cusack will probably be the back- up seamers with George Dockrell and Paul Stirling providing the spin options. While OíBrien has seven World Cup wickets to his name Cusack failed to take a wicket in his 18 overs in 2011.
The key element in the bowling department will be the death overs. The last six overs can be decisive in determining the outcome. A perfect example of this was the Bangalore match when Ireland restricted England to 39 runs off the last six overs for the loss of five wickets. Another 30 runs would probably have left Ireland with too much to do. Cusack and Mooney have tended to be used most often at the death with varying degrees of success. Porterfield should consider holding Young back for a couple of late overs as he has looked as comfortable as anyone at the end and can bowl a decent yorker.
Clearly the prospect of success for Ireland will revolve around the batting line up getting competitive totals if they bat first or being able to chase down scores in the region of 300. With the same top six now augmented by the breakthrough of the talented Andrew Balbirnie there is every reason to hope that match winning totals can be achieved in at least half of the matches. I wouldnít be overly concerned at some below par performances in the tri-series and the experience of the top six, four of whom are in their third successive finals (albeit Joyceís first one was for England) will be vital when inevitably some of the matches go down to the wire.
Of the six matches that Ireland will play in the group stage the only one that is probably beyond the side is the South Africa game. It would take an exceptional performance by Ireland coupled with a complacent and sloppily arrogant display from the Africans to cause a major upset. Their all-round power should see them to the final unless of course they again choke when the pressure comes on. South Africa has won all three previous ODIís against Ireland including the meetings at the 2007 and 2011 World Cup.
However all of the other matches are winnable. It is impossible to predict how the West Indies will perform. It is easy to surmise that they are in disarray especially after their abandoned Indian tour and some of their abysmal displays in the recently concluded South Africa tour. They have an inexperienced captain in Jason Holder and the selectors have dispensed with the services of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. Without question the biggest loss will be the absence of Sunil Narine who is not prepared to put his action under the spotlight at the highest level.
At the Cricket Ireland press conference to announce that Tourism Ireland was sponsoring Ireland at the World Cup I informed Phil Simmons that the ICC that morning had revealed that suspect actions would now be subject to a seven day assessment turnaround instead of the previous twenty-one days. I suggested to him that this would make it difficult for Narine to play against Ireland and not only did he agree but he was visibly delighted at the prospect. However West Indies still have an array of destructive batsmen who can put any attack to the sword. If any two of Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Samuels, Russell or Sammy come off then Ireland could concede a lot of runs very quickly.
While Holder may be captain the real heartbeat of the side resides within Darren Sammy. He is the one who shows real passion and drives the others on. If he can be neutralised a lot of the steam goes out of his team mates and their minds drift to their IPL prospects. West Indies has won four of the five ODIís against Ireland with the fifth a no result due to weather. Two of the victories were in the 2007 and 2011 World Cup.
India have had a nightmare few weeks in Australia and have many players either not 100% fit or out of form. Star batsman Virat Kolhi seems less assured without the captaincy and can be wound up to the point where he loses concentration and occasionally his wicket. There are no real terrors in their bowling attack although their seamers will appreciate the match being in Hamilton. Of course India will be clear favourites to beat Ireland but they lack the aura of South Africa and they could be as vulnerable as they were in 2007 when defeat to Bangladesh sent them home early. India has won both ODIís against Ireland including their match at the 2011 World Cup.
Pakistan deserves great credit in that of all of the Full Members they have been the one most amenable to playing Ireland. Apart from the historic match in 2007 there have been several other close matches. In May 2013 Ireland could and probably should have won both matches but let the chance slip through their fingers, literally in the second match. In Misbah, Younis Khan and Afridi there is a mountain of experience but the loss of Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan severely limits their bowling attack. By the time that they meet Ireland in Adelaide in the final match in the group Pakistan will know what they need to do and that may well influence their attitude to the game. Hopefully it will be the disinterested Pakistan that shows up on that day. Pakistan has played five ODIís against Ireland winning three, losing one with the fifth ending in a tie.
Zimbabwe is trying to rebuild under new coach Dav Whatmore, who has a decent coaching record. Whether he can instil enough confidence into his charges in the time available to him is the key question. They barely scraped a 2-2 tied home series against Afghanistan in their final warm up games and should hold no fears for Ireland. If Ireland plays to their full potential they are a better team than the Africans and if the deciding factor is spirit and desire then there will only be one winner. Zimbabwe has met Ireland in 5 ODIís winning three, losing one with their only meeting in the World Cup ending in a tie in 2007.
It is tempting to believe that UAE will be cannon fodder for Ireland but that could be a costly mistake if the Ireland team takes that attitude into their game in Brisbane. Yes Ireland will be favourites over the team with the highest average age in the tournament and the two oldest players in skipper Mohammad Tauqir and his deputy Khurram Khan who will both be 44 in June. However it is only a few weeks ago that UAE comfortably beat a full strength Afghanistan 3-1 and were only a few balls away from a whitewash. With nine of their squad the wrong side of thirty the vast expanses of the Gabba should put their fielding under pressure and that in the end could mean the extra thirty or forty runs that will be the difference between a close encounter and a comfortable win. Ireland has never met UAE in an ODI as UAE only regained that status last year. Ireland has won all four List A matches since they got ODI status in 2006.
Full profiles of Irelandís opponents will be in my previews of each of the forthcoming matches.
The fifteen men who have been tasked with continuing Irelandís remarkable World Cup odyssey are:
William Porterfield. Age 30. LHB.
William has captained Ireland in 50 of his 73 ODI matches. His captaincy has impressed a lot of international commentators and observers as has his dynamic fielding. This will be his third appearance at the World Cup where he is Irelandís third highest run scorer with 352 runs at 23.5. The best of his 3 fifties was his 85 against Bangladesh in the Super Eights in 2007 which helped ensure Irelandís ODI status. His batting has become much more aggressive in recent years, probably as a consequence of T20 cricket, and if he survives his first few overs can get Ireland off to a rollicking start.
His ODI record is 2,137 runs at an average of 31 and strike rate of 67. His 6 hundreds are the most for Ireland and he has also scored 10 fifties. His most memorable innings was the 112 he made against England in Malahide in 2013.
He has played 38 ODIís against Full Members in which he has 828 runs at an average of 21.8 with 2 centuries and 2 fifties.
He is currently in second place in ODI runs aggregate, 41 runs behind Kevin OíBrienís 2,178.
Andrew Balbirnie. Age 24. RHB. OB.
Andy has burst into the squad in the last twelve months with impressive batting for Leinster Lightning in the Inter-pros and for Ireland A. He followed up with consistently assured and classy performances on the acclimatisation tour and cemented his place with a stunning century against a top class New Zealand A side in November. He appears likely to bat at number seven in the opening match in Nelson.
He originally made his ODI debut in 2010 when he was nineteen but made little impression in his four World Cricket League matches and had to wait four years for his next chance.
In his 10 ODIís to date he has 157 runs at 17.4 and a strike rate of 48.9. His highest score is 38 versus Scotland in Malahide last September. He has also taken 2 wickets for 68 runs off his 10 overs of occasional off spin.
He has not yet played against a Full Member.
Peter Chase. Age 21. RHB. RFM.
Peter has been earmarked as a potential successor to Johnston and Rankin for a couple of years now and spent the winter of 2013/14 in Australia playing Grade cricket and more importantly getting coached by Craig McDermott. In truth his early season form in Leinster gave no hint that he would be back down under now. Against Sri Lanka A in Stormont his confidence had ebbed away to the point that he was propelling the ball at no more than medium pace.
However a spate of injuries at his County side Durham thrust him into the Championship and he was given the instruction to ďbowl as fast as you can and donít worry about the runsĒ. A five wicket haul on debut and a total of 11 wickets at 15.7 with a strike rate of 25.2 sealed his place on the acclimatisation tour (helped by the absence of Murtagh and Sorensen). While he was expensive at times he also had several hostile spells and a similar display of hostility together with 3 wickets against New Zealand A in November ensured he would be spending his second successive winter in Australia.
While he is unlikely to start in Nelson, his pace and bounce may see him make his proper ODI debut in Brisbane against UAE.
Alex Cusack. Age 34. RHB. RM.
When Alex didnít play a single match in any type of cricket after May in the Irish season it seemed that his career was over. However Phil Simmons wanted him on the trip and was prepared to give Alex as long as was feasibly possible to prove that he could achieve a level of fitness that would justify his inclusion in the World Cup squad. At his best he has been a vital component in the side with his all-round skills providing balance while his upbringing in Australia was also an important factor in his selection. Indeed his selection in the three ODIís last month in Dubai suggests that he will start against West Indies.
In his 54 ODIís he has scored 726 runs at 22.7 with a strike rate of 63.9 and the higher of his 2 fifties was 71 against Scotland. His medium pace bowling has brought him 56 wickets at 23.9 with an economy rate of 4.6 and strike rate of 30.8. He is regularly used in the death overs but at his pace he can concede a lot of runs if his accuracy is even a fraction off and this has been an issue in recent times.
In his five matches at the 2011 World Cup he scored 80 runs at 20 but he will always be remembered for his support role in the World Cup record 6th wicket stand with Kevin OíBrien. His unselfishness stood out when on 47 he ensured that Kevin would not be the man run out and kept the dream alive. However his 18.2 overs failed to produce a wicket and he conceded 5.9 runs per over.
Alex has played 22 ODIís against Full Members, scoring 323 runs at 20.2 with that 47 against England being his top score. He has 20 wickets at 29.4 at an economy rate of 5.1 and strike rate of 34.7.
George Dockrell. Age 22. RHB. SLA.
It is hard to believe that George is still only 22. His left arm spin has already earned him 42 ODI caps and he has 51 wickets. They have come at an average of 27.8, economy rate of 4.2 and a strike rate of 39.3. There is a perception that Georgeís form has fallen away somewhat in the past couple of seasons and on the face of it statistics give some credence to this view. However it is more likely that a lack of top level fixtures for Ireland in the past three years is a greater factor and limited his opportunities to develop against top class batting. In the first two years of his Ireland career 2010-11 he played 26 ODIís taking 32 wickets while the subsequent three years has seen just 16 matches and 19 wickets.
However after a sustained run of matches during the acclimatisation tour and in Dubai in November his form has returned and he looked back to his best in the ODIís last month when his 4-35 against Afghanistan equalled his best ever figures.
He has played 18 ODIís against Full Members garnering 19 victims at 35, an economy rate of 4.7 and a strike rate of 45.
He had an impressive 2011 World Cup when, as an 18 year old, he played in all six matches taking 7 wickets at 29.6 with an economy rate of 4.4 and a strike rate of 40. Among his victims were Sachin Tendulkar, M S Dhoni, Andrew Strauss and Ramnaresh Sarwan.
He is a dogged batsman who doesnít give his wicket away cheaply as 13 not outs in 22 innings testifies. He has also rightly gained a reputation as a very safe catcher and only five Ireland players have held more than his 18 catches and they all have played many more matches.
Ed Joyce. Age 36. LHB.
In all probability this will be Edís final World Cup and he will be determined to ensure he leaves this stage having given it all to his countryís cause. While this is his third time in the finals, he did of course represent England in the 2007 version. However had it not been for his remarkable batting for Ireland in the 2005 ICC Trophy, which acted as a qualifier for the World Cup, Ireland would not have been in the Caribbean and instead of contemplating matches against the top nations, followers of cricket here would probably be debating whether it was worthwhile taking a day off work to watch the might of the Free Foresters next summer.
Fortunately Irelandís most stylish batsman did rescue his country from oblivion and having returned to his natural home in 2011 he goes into the game in Nelson with the best ODI average of any of his contemporaries. In his 28 matches for Ireland he has scored 883 runs at 36.8 with an unbeaten 116 against Pakistan together with 6 fifties. Interestingly his average for Ireland is almost 10 runs per innings better than his ODI average for England.
In his 14 matches for Ireland against Full Members he has aggregated 350 runs at 26.9 with the aforementioned hundred and one fifty.
In 2011 he scored 176 runs at 29.3 and his innings of 84 against the West Indies looked at one point as if it would send Ireland to the quarter-finals. It would be poetic justice if Ed were to produce an innings in Nelson that this time does take out the two time World Champions.
Andrew McBrine. Age 21. LHB. OB.
Although he was with Ireland in the Caribbean this time last year where he bowled economically in the 50 over Tournament he didnít make his ODI debut until last September against Scotland.
In his three ODIís to date he has not yet batted and has taken 2 wickets for 84 off 17 overs. He owes his place in the squad to being regarded as the best back-up spin option to George Dockrell and some good performances with bat and ball for Northwest Warriors in the Inter-pros.
The experience over the next few weeks, if embraced, should be a stepping stone to a long career for Ireland.
John Mooney. Age 33. LHB. RMF.
You would be hard pressed to find any Irishman in the International sports arena who is more passionate about playing for his country that the North County man.
While he may not be the most talented player to wear the Ireland shirt no one tries harder. He has played 54 ODIís for Ireland scoring 900 runs at 25.7 with a strike rate of 79.7. The highest of his 3 half centuries was the 96 he made against Scotland last September in Malahide. It was also the most emotional and brave innings in his career as it came the day after he had bared his soul on radio about his mental health problems.
In addition to his runs John has 41 wickets at 30.4 with an economy rate of 5.3 and a strike rate of 34.3.
Against Full Members his 20 matches have brought 334 runs at 20.9 with a top score of 55 against Zimbabwe. Interestingly with the ball he has 18 wickets at 27, economy of 5.7 and strike rate of 28.3 figures that are better than against other Associates.
John played two matches in 2007 and all six in 2011. His overall record of 81 runs at 13.5 may not seem significant but within that is the 33 not out against England that ensured that the stellar efforts of OíBrien and Cusack were not in vain. His 10 wickets in 2011 were the most by any of the team. His overall average is 29.5 for all his World Cup matches at an economy rate of 5.9 and he shares with Kevin OíBrien the best strike rate (30) of all Ireland bowlers in World Cups. He also helped put the brakes on England in Bangalore by snapping up 4 wickets.
He is a menacing presence at 8 in the batting order and he is capable of generating sharp pace when he is in rhythm. Almost certainly will be used as a death bowler and with his dynamic fielding he is rarely out of the game.
Kevin OíBrien. Age 30. RHB. RM.
While that innings in Bangalore brought him to worldwide attention there is a lot more to Kevin than that day four years ago. With 84 ODI caps he is 11 ahead of the next man and he has been central to Irelandís success over the past eight years. Indeed he has only missed six of the ninety matches that Ireland has played at ODI level. These matches have brought him a record aggregate of 2,178 runs at an average of 33.5 and an impressive strike rate of 83.3. His other ODI century was 142 against Kenya in 2007.
He also has 68 wickets at 28.3 with an economy rate of 4.9 and a strike rate of 34.9. Oh yes he also has held the most catches (39) other than a wicketkeeper.
In his 38 matches against Full Members he has a record aggregate of 928 runs at 28.1. In addition to his century he also has passed 50 on three other occasions. For good measure he has 26 wickets at 33.4, with an economy of 5.5 and strike rate of 36.4.
In his two previous World Cups he has scored 368 runs at 30.7 and a strike rate of 87.4. His seven wickets have cost 30.7 runs apiece at an economy rate of 6.1 but he shares the best strike rate of 30 with John Mooney.
No team will feel safe until Kevin is back in the pavilion and quite apart from his seminal innings in 2011 it should not be forgotten that he calmly helped steer Ireland home against Pakistan in 2007. His canny variety of seamers and slower balls has broken many partnerships but it is also important to recognise when the batsmen have lined him up and he needs to be out of the attack.
Kevin will be determined to deliver another game changing performance over the next month and no one should be foolish enough to bet against that happening.
Niall OíBrien. Age 33. LHB. WK.
They say that wicketkeepers are a different breed and when Niall OíBrien is around it is hard to argue with that statement. Feisty and never short of an opinion he has chirped his way through many a fifty over stint behind the stumps. It really is a great pity that a dispute three years ago has cost him his wicketkeepers spot unless Gary Wilson isnít available. Gary is a very good keeper but most observers would agree that Niall is that bit better and to compound the issue Gary is a much better outfielder.
While Niall may not be able to contribute with the gloves he will make up for it with the bat. In the previous two World Cups he has the highest aggregate of runs, his 421 runs being 53 ahead of his brother. He scored those runs at an average of 30.1and at a strike rate of 65.3. Among his 3 fifties was one of the most crucial innings in Irelandís history: his 72 against Pakistan at Sabina Park in 2007 was largely responsible for thrusting a small island on the Atlantic shores of Europe to world prominence. Niallís efforts that day have brought about changes that have arguably caused more ripples in the cosy ICC club than anything else in the past ten years. Keep on chirping Niall.
Overall in his 64 ODIís his 1,649 runs place him 4th in the Irelandís leading scorers. He has compiled those runs at an average of 29.5 with a strike rate of 67.4 and his 12 fifties are the most by any Ireland batsman in ODIís who have not gone on to a hundred. The highest of these is the match winning 80 not out he notched up against Scotland last month. Indeed his form over the past twelve months suggests that he is batting as well as at any time in his career.
In his 36 ODIís against Full Members he has aggregated 781 runs at 22.3 with 4 fifties.
Max Sorensen. Age 29. RHB. RFM.
Max was somewhat controversially omitted from the original squad but regained his place because of Tim Murtaghís injury. There were suggestions that Max was left out because he was considered one dimensional as he lacked variations in his bowling. It is true that at ODI level 11 of his 12 wickets have come against Scotland and only one in his three matches against Full Members. However the facts are that in other formats of the game he has performed very well as his overall record of 81 wickets at 18.8 would testify. Included in those were excellent spells against strong Australia and South Africa A sides.
His ODI record is 12 wickets at 22.6 with an economy rate of 4.5 and a strike rate of 30.2. He is no mug with the bat as he has 97 runs at 24.3.
Paul Stirling. Age 24. RHB. OB.
As with George Dockrell you still blink in surprise when you realise Paulís age. He has been blasting runs at the top of the innings since his debut as a 17 year old. At times this has led some commentators to expect performances of him that are unrealistic. What he has already achieved is remarkable for someone who is nowhere near his peak yet as a batsman.
His 51 ODIís have yielded 1726 runs to place him third in the all-time list. His average is 35.2 and he has a strike rate of 95.1. No wonder he has been compared at times to Virender Sehwag. He also has 5 hundreds and 6 fifties the highest of which is a 134 ball 177 against Canada which is Irelandís highest individual score in ODIís.
In addition he has 27 wickets at an economy rate of 4.4 with his nagging accurate off spin.
Against Full Members he has 616 runs in his 23 matches at an average of 26.8 with two hundreds, both against Pakistan with his run a ball 109 in Belfast being described by Waqar Younis as one of the best innings he had seen. He also has 11 wickets at an economy rate of 4.9.
In the 2011 World Cup he got 157 runs at an average of 26.2 with an astonishing strike rate of 122.7. His 70 ball century against Netherlands was the third fastest in World Cup history. He also got 4 wickets at an economy rate of 4.5.
Having made a breakthrough for Middlesex in first class cricket Paul is now more selective in his stroke play and should he survive fifteen overs in any innings he could do serious damage to any attack.
Stuart Thompson. Age 23. LHB. RMF.
In his 7 match ODI career Stuart has looked an all-rounder of potential. He has clearly caught the eye of Phil Simmons who has continued to include him in squads even after he had a dramatic loss of form over the past few months.
He has scored 130 runs at 32.5 with a strike rate of 90.3 and a highest score of 39. He also has 6 wickets at an average of 14.5 and an economy rate of 3.6 while his strike rate is 24.5.
In his two matches against Full Members he has 3 wickets at a strike rate of 16, average of 12 and economy of 4.5. He also has 34 runs in 2 knocks.
Will probably be the backup all-rounder should Mooney or Cusack be unavailable.
Gary Wilson. Age 29. RHB. WK.
Gary just missed out on the 2007 World Cup but since has become an established member of the side initially as a batsman but more recently as the first choice wicketkeeper. His 52 matches have brought 1,129 runs at an average of 25.1 and a strike rate of 72.1. He has one century, 113 against the Netherlands and 7 fifties.
Against Full Members his 22 matches have brought him 425 runs at 21.3 with 4 fifties and a highest score of 69 against Zimbabwe.
However his standout innings was his 62 ball 61 versus the West Indies in the 2011 World Cup when Ireland looked like they might win before Gary was controversially and erroneously dismissed after a DRS review. Those runs accounted for exactly half of his 2011 aggregate with an average of 30.5 and strike rate of 84.1.
Craig Young. Age 24. RHB. RFM.
Craig has burst onto the scene after being a promising under age cricketer. However injuries disrupted his career and eventually curtailed his spell with Sussex. However now that he is back in Ireland with North West Warriors and on a full Cricket Ireland contract he is delivering on that early promise.
While he has yet to bowl against a Full Member he has been very impressive against Associates as his 16 wickets at 14.1 demonstrate. For an opening bowler an economy rate of 4.1 is more than exceptional especially with the remarkable strike rate of 20.5. This as noted earlier is the best of any bowler in the World Cup who have delivered at least 50 overs.
While it would be unrealistic to expect that Craig could continue to send batsmen back to the pavilion at his current rate his ability to move the new ball around at a mid-eighties pace has the potential to trouble any top order batsman.
The side is coached by Phil Simmons who apart from leading Ireland in 2011 played in 13 World Cup matches for the West Indies. He scored 336 runs at 30.5 and a strike rate of 74.7. He had one century, 110 vs Sri Lanka in 1992, as well as 2 fifties.
He also took 8 wickets at 28.4 with an economy rate of 3.8 and a strike rate of 44.2.
This will be Roy Torrens final tournament as manager marking the end of an Ireland career that first saw him wearing the green shirt in 1966. As he will tell you himself in that time he has seen everything from the mundane to the mesmerising (good and bad) and in recent years the memorable.
The influence he has had on the extraordinary last eight years of success should never be underestimated. It will take some adjusting to not seeing the big man wandering around a cricket ground in his Ireland tracksuit. However I suspect that various cricket pavilion bars should not cancel their supplies of Famous Grouse just yet.