Preview: Misbah-led Pakistan face tricky Ireland series

Ireland will host Pakistan for a two match ODI series AFP

By Ian Callender

Belfast: May 28, 2011

Pakistan are set to play a two-match one-day series against Ireland with Misbah-ul-Haq their fifth limited overs captain in three years.

Misban was handed the captaincy last week following the sacking of Shahid Afridi, who, it was announced on Tuesday, is not travelling to Ireland.

“Afridi has informed us that his father has been admitted to hospital for liver treatment and he wants to be with him and would not be available for the two matches in Ireland,” said Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman Nadeem Sarwar.

The 31-year-old Afridi took over as Pakistan captain last year and guided the team to the World Cup semi-final where they lost to India — who went on to win the final — in March.

After the recent series against the West Indies, Afridi accused Pakistan coach Waqar Younis of meddling in team selection upon his return home on May 9.

“Everyone should do his job and should be answerable for his duties,” Afridi said. When asked about his differences with Waqar, he replied: “They are not at a stage where we cannot resolve them.”

The weather could hardly be more different to that in the Caribbean the Pakistanis left barely 24 hours earlier before they arrived in Belfast here on Thursday amid cool, breezy conditions.

Meanwhile, the Stormont ground, the venue for both matches, on Saturday and Monday, was too wet Thursday to allow Ireland to train.

If Pakistan can adapt to the drop in temperatures and not think too longingly of home after more than a month away, they should have enough all-round strength to see off the leading Associate nation. But anything less than a fully committed performance could see them struggling.

Since Ireland knocked Pakistan out of the 2007 World Cup, they have gone from strength to strength, defeating England at this year’s edition.

And even one victory against Pakistan will consolidate their 10th place ranking in the ODI table, just four places behind the tourists.

Afridi will probably be missed more by the Irish public – he was a popular professional for Ireland in 2006 – than his team-mates because his bowling is much more dangerous than his batting these days and, as Pakistan proved in the Test matches in the West Indies, they have plenty of quality slow bowling.

Between them Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez took 32 of the 40 wickets in the two matches although it is unlikely the Stormont pitch will turn nearly as much as in Guyana or St Kitts.

Ireland coach Phil Simmons, the former West Indies all-rounder, is hoping for a similar surface to the one served up at Stormint for the ODIs against Bangladesh in July last year.

That pitch didn’t turn, the Tigers were tamed and Ireland drew the series 1-1.

While Pakistan have a 15-man squad at their disposal, including the return of Umar Gul and Younis Khan, both rested for the five one-dayers in the Caribbean, Ireland will be without the injured Niall O’Brien and George Dockrell.

O’Brien, man of the match in the 2007 World Cup match between the teams, is averaging 94 in one-day cricket for his county Northamptonshire this year.

Dockrell, a talented 18-year-old left-arm spinner, took this year’s World Cup by storm but hasn’t bowled a ball since dislocating his shoulder in Ireland’s last game against the Netherlands in Kolkata 10 weeks ago.


Pakistan (Probable): Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Mohammed Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Mohammed Salman (wk), Taufeeq Umar, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Saeed Ajmal, Tanvir Ahmed

Ireland (Probable): William Porterfield (c), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Alex Cusack, Kevin O’Brien, Andew White, Andrew Poynter (wk), John Mooney, Trent Johnston, Boyd Rankin, Albert van der Merwe.