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Ireland prepare for desert battle with UAE

Updated: Monday, 11 Mar 2013 12:50 | Comments

Trent Johnston is the leading wicket taker in InterContinental Cup history with 83
Trent Johnston is the leading wicket taker in InterContinental Cup history with 83

Ireland's quest for a fourth InterContinental Cup win gets under way in the desert tomorrow, when they take on the UAE in Sharjah.

For three of the Irish team, the competition evokes happy memories, being part of the side which won the competition for the first time back in 2005.

Trent Johnston skippered an Ireland side which included Niall O'Brien and Andrew White, who all contributed to one of the most famous victories in their recent history - a six-wicket win against a Kenyan side who had scored a mammoth 401 for 4 in their first innings.

Johnston recalled: "It was great to be a part of that win.

"People talk about 2007 and the World Cup victory against Pakistan being the start of the Irish cricket success story, but for me it can be traced back to that win over Kenya in 2005 - some great memories, some great guys who were at the forefront of pushing Irish cricket toward where it is now."

Looking ahead to the games against UAE, Johnston agreed it's a huge two weeks for the future of Irish cricket: "Absolutely - we're sitting top of the table for both the ICup and qualification for the 2015 World Cup.

"Conditions here in Sharjah are obviously going to be difficult, so we have to be disciplined in all areas of the game.

"We've trained hard since we got here and are well prepared. In terms of experience and class we should in my opinion beat UAE, but we've got to show that on the pitch."

Johnston was the most successful of the Irish attack in the practice game with Canada at the weekend, when he took three wickets.

When asked how seamers should bowl in the dry and humid conditions of the desert, Johnston said: "Again, it's all about discipline, building pressure, and bowling in partnerships.

"My philosophy is no matter who you're bowling to, if you can build pressure, then the wickets will come.

"You've got to bowl at the wicket with the field set straight, and offer as little width as possible" - Trent Johnston

"You've got to bowl at the wicket with the field set straight, and offer as little width as possible.

"As the game goes on, variations in pace, and reverse swing with the scuffed ball also become important factors."

Ireland's veteran bowler is the leading wicket taker in InterContinental Cup history with 83 at a cost of just 16 and would relish hitting 100 wickets taken by season end.

He said: "That would be nice. I've set myself targets for the year, and if the pitches in Ireland and Holland are conducive for seam bowling, then who knows?

"I just want to play in every game that I can and the wickets will take care of themselves" - Trent Johnston

"I just want to play in every game that I can and the wickets will take care of themselves."

The elder statesman of the squad, who turns 39 next month, clearly still has the hunger and desire for more success, saying: "It's great to be still playing and still right there in the mix. I'd love to go out with a fourth win in the competition."

Ireland have no injury worries ahead of tomorrow's clash with the UAE following an early training session at the stadium, which has hosted a world record 209 ODIs.

Ireland coach Phil Simmons was pleased with how preparations for the games had gone, and was looking forward to the competitive action getting under way. 

"Everyone's fit and raring to go. I'm expecting a typical Sharjah pitch, which will be low, slow and with a little turn," said Simmons.

"It's up to them to use the conditions which work for them, and we've got to try and combat that.

"We've acclimatised well, and the guys are a lot sharper than I thought they would be coming from indoor training, which is pleasing" - Phil Simmons

"We've acclimatised well, and the guys are a lot sharper than I thought they would be coming from indoor training, which is pleasing."

While the InterContinental Cup is obviously important to Ireland, Simmons agreed that the two WCL games next week were the most important part of the tour.

"It's fair to say that, but we'll focus on both. It's important for Cricket Ireland to keep winning in all competitions and to keep our place at the top of Associate cricket," said Simmons.

"I'm glad that the four-day game comes first as it'll give the guys a chance to get acclimatised to the pitch and able to spend some time out in the middle."

Ireland currently top the InterContinental Cup table with 67 points from their four games, ahead of Scotland (46), Afghanistan (44) and Namibia (43). UAE are in sixth place on 30 points.

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