/ Cricket

Ireland face Afghanistan in vital World Cup qualifier clashes

Updated: Monday, 02 Jul 2012 12:45 | Comments

Paul Stirling: 'The players are all aware of the importance of these ties, and the motivation of appearing in yet another World Cup will drive us on.'
Paul Stirling: 'The players are all aware of the importance of these ties, and the motivation of appearing in yet another World Cup will drive us on.'

Ireland have no new injury concerns ahead of their two crucial World Cup qualifier clashes with Afghanistan which get under way at Clontarf on Tuesday morning (10.45).

Ireland and Afghanistan will both be missing their frontline bowlers, as Boyd Rankin is still recuperating from a stress reaction in his foot, while Hamid Hassan misses out due to a leg injury.

Afghanistan skipper Nowroz Mangal (finger) is out for six weeks so Karim Sadiq takes the captaincy role.

Ireland coach Phil Simmons is aware of the importance of the qualifier games and just how tough an opponent Afghanistan will be.

He said: "There's no doubt that Afghanistan has emerged as our most difficult challenger over the past two or three years. We've had some intriguing tussles with them in that time and it's fair to say it's probably been pretty even in terms of results."

Ireland v Afghanistan - Pepsi ICC WCL at Castle Avenue, Clontarf - 3 & 5 July (10:45am) (reserve days 4 & 6 July).

"It was disappointing not to get the full game played against Australia but most of the guys have managed to get some cricket under their belts either here or in England. These are going to be high pressure games as we look to cement our place at the top of the qualifying group for the 2015 World Cup, but we know it won't be easy," added Simmons. 

The Irish team contains no fewer than eight players currently on county books, with Middlesex's Paul Stirling currently in scintillating form.

Stirling, 21, has already played 103 times for Ireland, has scored three consecutive half centuries for Middlesex in their T20 competition, and was the Man of the Match when the two sides met in the World T20 qualifiers in Dubai in March.

"That game in Dubai was a personal highlight for me," said Stirling. "My knocks against Namibia and Afghanistan were right up there with the best I've played in Irish colours and it was fantastic to make them at such a crucial stage of the tournament.

"I've been in good touch with Middlesex and I'm hoping I'll be able to carry it on in the games with Afghanistan this week.

"The players are all aware of the importance of these ties, and the motivation of appearing in yet another World Cup will drive us on.

"There's a lot of experience in the squad and I'm sure it'll be needed against Afghanistan who always come at us hard. I'm hoping home advantage will count and that the Irish fans get behind us at Clontarf."

Ireland (from) - William Porterfield (capt) (Warwickshire), Alex Cusack (Clontarf), George Dockrell (Somerset), Trent Johnston (YMCA), Ed Joyce (Middlesex), John Mooney (North County), Tim Murtagh (Middlesex), Kevin O’Brien (Somerset), Niall O’Brien (Northants), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Max Sorensen (The Hills), Stuart Thompson (Limavady), Andrew White (Instonians),Gary Wilson (Surrey).

Afghanistan (from) - Karim Sadiq (captain), Mohammed Nabi, Asghar Stanikzai, Mohameed Shehzad, Javid Ahmadi, Samiullah Shinwari, Amir Mangal, Gulbadin Naib, Dollat Zadran, Izzatullah Dawlatzai, Amir Hamza Hotak, Shahpoor Zadran, Shabir Noori, Najibullah Zadran. 

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