x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Top dogs Ireland expect a hard day's work at fortress Sharjah against UAE

The two 50-over matches could be crucial in determining the two automatic qualifiers to the 2015 World Cup from the World Cricket League Championship.

William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, right, says his side are looking forward to causing an upset in Sharjah against the UAE. Christopher Pike / The National
William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, right, says his side are looking forward to causing an upset in Sharjah against the UAE. Christopher Pike / The National

DUBAI // Ireland arrived in the UAE with one goal in mind: to maintain their top position in both the Intercontinental Cup and the World Cricket League Championship.

Half of that job was done last week when the visitors out-batted UAE in the four-day game to take six points for their first innings lead and keep their position at the top of the Intercontinental Cup standings with 73 points.

Now comes the other half, two 50-over matches that could be crucial in determining the two automatic qualifiers to the 2015 World Cup from the World Cricket League Championship (WCLC).

"We are top of the table in both and we wanted to play well in both," said Phil Simmons, the Ireland coach. "We have done justice in the last game and now we have the two one-dayers.

"We play to win every game. The last one was a draw, now we look forward to the other two and we will try to make sure we win these two games."

Ireland are leading the WCLC table with 13 points and they have lost just one of their eight games - to Kenya in Mombasa.

The UAE are sixth in the standings with 10 points, but two wins at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium could see them move to the top and give their hopes of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup a major boost.

And it is possible. Ireland undoubtedly are the best team outside the Test-playing nations, with appearances at the last two World Cups, but Sharjah is a fortress where the UAE have not lost once in four matches of this competition, beating fancied sides such as Afghanistan and Scotland.

"It's obviously two massive games," said William Porterfield, the Ireland one-day captain. "The idea for us is to go home with two wins. But the UAE will be thinking the same thing.

"The UAE have a pretty good record here in Sharjah, so they are not going to be easy games. We realise that Scotland came here and were beaten twice and Afghanistan were beaten twice. So we are taking nothing lightly.

"The UAE are a good side, especially here in Sharjah, and we are expecting two pretty tough games. We are looking forward to it as a squad."

With three centurions in the four-day game last week - Ed Joyce, Niall O'Brien and Porterfield himself - the Ireland captain believes his team are in the right frame of mind for the one-day challenge.

"It's a confidence boost for ourselves," Porterfield said. "Obviously, we haven't been outdoors in five months.

"We have not played much cricket in five months, so I think it was important for us to get out and spend time in the middle and that's one of the nice things about the four-day game.

"Any cobwebs, you can afford to get those cobwebs out of your legs, get some yards on your legs as bowlers and spend some time in the middle as batters. I think it would have been more difficult if the one-dayers were first."

Ireland, however, will be facing a fresh set of bowlers in the one-dayers as the UAE have decided to go in with a different attack to the one that played the Intercontinental Cup.

Khurram Khan, the UAE captain, believes that would be an advantage in these conditions.

"The guys who are coming in, they are all bowlers and [the Irish] have not seen them bowling," Khurram said. "This is a plus for us. We have seen both their bowling and batting. We have seen their strengths, so I think it is going to be a very good contest."

 

arizvi@thenational.ae