Phil Simmons has named an unchanged squad for next week’s RSA Insurance ODI series against a star-studded Pakistan side in Dublin.
The Ireland coach has kept faith with the players who won both their World Cup qualifying games against the United Arab Emirates in March to stay in pole position to reach the 2015 finals.
Simmons, who has been in charge of Ireland for just over six years and 177 games, is hoping for another major scalp in the two matches against Pakistan at Clontarf.
“We’ve always got a chance in our conditions,” Simmons said. “We’ve turned in some strong performances in recent years especially against England and Australia and lost matches we should have won.
“We’re getting stronger all the time and we’ll be well prepared and try to put them under pressure from the start.
“There’s a great atmosphere at Clontarf with the Irish fans behind us, and with a full house expected for both games, I’m hoping they can get us over the line against Pakistan. It’s certain to be a great carnival of cricket over the two days.
“We know how important it is to keep the momentum going with Irish cricket and we’ll be looking for headline victories in our marquee games this year.”
"We’re getting stronger all the time and we’ll be well prepared and try to put them under pressure from the start" - Phil Simmons
On the question of the squad selection, Simmons has gone for the tried and trusted but insists the door is not closed to young players coming along Cricket Ireland’s pathways towards the national team.
He said: “I like having experienced players with a sprinkling of youth to keep things fresh and that’s what we have now.
“This is more or less a settled squad and it’s up to those on the outside to force their way into the reckoning. There’s plenty of chances available for them to do just that with Ireland A fixtures and of course the RSA Inter-Provincial Series.”
Simmons knows Pakistan will be formidable opponents as they acclimatise to northern European conditions ahead of next month’s Champions Trophy in England.
“There’s no doubt Pakistan are a very strong team who play their cricket in an exciting way,” Simmons said. “They have quick-scoring batsman who like to play their shots, a very strong pace battery and a world-class mystery spinner, so they tick all the boxes.
“There’s no doubt we’re going to be up against it in both games, but that’s what we want. We’re crying out for this type of challenge and it’s fantastic that we’ve got these two ODI’s against one of the games superpowers.”
Both matches are heading towards sell-outs and tickets for the matches at Clontarf on Thursday 23 May and Sunday 26 May can be purchased at www.cricketireland.ie.
Ireland squad for the RSA Insurance ODI Series: William Porterfield (captain) (Warwickshire), Alex Cusack (Clontarf), George Dockrell (Somerset), Trent Johnston (YMCA), Ed Joyce (Sussex), John Mooney* (North County), Tim Murtagh (Middlesex), Kevin O'Brien (Railway Union), Niall O'Brien (Leicestershire), James Shannon (Instonians), Max Sorensen (The Hills), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Andrew White (Instonians), Gary Wilson (Surrey).
*Mooney is suspended for the first match on 23 May
Pakistan squad: Misbah ul Haq (captain), Muhammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshaid, Imran Farhat, Asad Shafiq, Shoaib Malik, Umar Amin, Asad Ali, Junaid Khan, Muhammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Ehsan Adil, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman, Kamran Akmal.