BELFAST, Ireland, CMC Two-time former 50-overs champions West Indies maybe the highest seeded side in the ICC World Cup qualifiers but they hold no terrors for minnows Ireland.
The Caribbean side have been installed in Group A of the March 4-25 tournament in Zimbabwe, alongside the likes of Ireland, the Netherlands, Papau New Guinea and the winners of the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 tournament scheduled for next month in Namibia.
However, the Irish will bring with them the memories of their emphatic victory over the Windies at the last World Cup in New Zealand three years ago, and captain William Porterfield said they would be using this as motivation.
We’ve got a good record against the Windies, beating them in the 2015 World Cup, so we’ll take confidence from that,Porterfield said. The Netherlands have got some big players back in recent times, so they’ll be tough, while PNG are improving all the time.
We will be at full strength for the competition, so hopefully if we play to our potential we’ll make it through to the finals and our fourth straight World Cup. Ireland produced one of the upsets of the 2015 edition when they astonishingly chased down 305 to stun West Indies at Saxton Oval in Nelson.
Porterfield was a member of that successful team and key players from that squad like Niall and Kevin O’Brien, Ed Joyce and Paul Stirling, are still in the one-day set-up.
Ireland have not played the Windies since, with their ODI carded for last September rained off without a ball bowled. Overall, West Indies have won four of their six meetings with the Irish.
The two sides will clash on March 10 at the Harare Sports Club in one of the key match-ups of the preliminaries of the qualifiers.
The top three sides from each of the two groups will advance to the Super Six second round where they will clash with teams they did not meet in the group stage, with the top two advancing to the final and also qualifying for the 2019 World Cup in England. And though Group B comprises Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong and the runners-up from the WCL Division 2 tournament, Porterfield warned there would be no easy victories.
It’s going to be a really hard-fought tournament with nearly all the sides in with a genuine chance of qualification,he said. There are certainly no gimmees in the competition. It’s a pity there are only two places up for grabs. Eight teams have already qualified for the 2019 World Cup with England, by virtue of being hosts, and the remaining top seven ranked teams in the ICC rankings, earning automatic berths.
West Indies were forced into the qualifiers after they were ranked ninth at the September 30 cut-off date last year.
O’Brien celebrates another West Indies wicket during their surprise win at the 2015 ICC World Cup