Preview: England wary of energetic Ireland

Ireland, led by William Porterfield, have played determined enough cricket so far to punish any further scrappiness by England and Ian Bell acknowledged their performance.

By Jamie Alter

 

Bengaluru: Mar 2, 2011

 

There are still 16 days to go till St Patrick’s Day, but Ireland will hope to get warmed up with a positive display against England. The most talented off all the Associate nations, the Irish camp would have watched closely England’s jittery and error-strewn opening victory over Netherlands, and their struggles against India, and know better than any team that on the day, it’s anybody’s game.

 

Ireland, led by William Porterfield, have played determined enough cricket so far to punish any further scrappiness by England and Ian Bell acknowledged their performance. “We will be aware of the huge danger of not playing to our potential against Ireland,” said Bell. “I fully respect the Irish team. We cannot just turn up and expect to win. Off the back of a great result against India, we need to carry that on now. It is not a game we can just coast. There are some dangerous players in that Ireland side.”

 

Ireland should have beaten Bangladesh, but a bout of nerves and some brittle batting – sad, considering how energetically Ireland had bowled and fielded – led to defeat in the cauldron of Mirpur. Porterfield put his hand up after the loss and admitted his rash shot had opened up the gates. It was indeed the batting which led to defeat; down the order, the talented and incredibly valuable O’Brien brothers, Niall and Kevin, got off to starts only to give away their wickets. It is a trend Ireland can ill afford against England.

 

England’s batting, minus Andrew Strauss and Bell, and to an extent Kevin Pietersen, was a shambles against India. Subtract Strauss’ excellent 158 and Bell’s pugnacious 69, and the eight other Englishmen who picked up a bat on Sunday night scored just 111 runs. What England will take out of that epic tie is the belief that anything is possible. England sides of the past have regularly underachieved with the bat, and to come so close to chasing 339 left this current team with mixed emotions, as Strauss readily admitted after the match.

 

England’s bowling lacked conviction against India, with only Tim Bresnan’s five wickets having any impact. England missed Stuart Broad and will hope he has recovered for tomorrow’s match, and if he does, the man to go out is the team’s spearhead, James Anderson. Anderson has had a torrid time in the World Cup, bleeding 163 runs in 19.5 overs for a solitary wicket. He’s struggled for swing, understandably given the unfavourable conditions, but what has been worrisome from England’s perspective is his waywardness during the slog overs. They cannot have their strike bowler spraying the ball about while in a poor state of mind, and given Ajmal Shahzad’s tidy first six overs in Bangalore and his clean hitting during a frenetic finale, it’s foreseeable that he makes the list ahead of Anderson. The twin spin approach is likely to stay intact, with Michael Yardy backing up Graeme Swann.

 

For Ireland, the impact of big Boyd Rankin could be a cause for concern. Undoubtedly their biggest asset  – and star of the 2007 World Cup – the 6 ft 7 in Rankin appeared to have lost pace and accuracy during the defeat in Dhaka, and that’s worrying when your main bowler is struggling against Bangladesh. Rankin is making a comeback after injury so may be a bit ginger, but this is after all a World Cup. Up against England, his pace and bounce will be a big factor in how strong a start the opposition gets off to. Andre Botha and young George Dockrell, the talented left-arm spinner who bowled beautifully against Bangladesh, will be relied heavily upon to curb runs and take wickets.

 

Personnel changes aside, England will be fully aware that there’s little room for error against an Ireland side that gives away very little in the field and who always back their bowling and batting limitations with commitment.  

 

Teams:

 

England (probable): Andrew Strauss (c), Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matthew Prior (wk), Michael Yardy, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Ajmal Shehzad/James Anderson.

 

Ireland (probable):  William Porterfield (c), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien (wk), Andrew White, Kevin O’Brien, Andre Botha, John Mooney, Trent Johnston, George Dockrell, Boyd Rankin. 

 

Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Billy Bowden (New Zealand).

 

Time: 14.30 local (09.00 GMT)

 

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine. His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now.)

 

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