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Phil Simmons confident Ireland will deliver again

Updated: Thursday, 14 Nov 2013 17:24 | Comments

Ireland coach Phil Simmons
Ireland coach Phil Simmons

Phil Simmons is confident Ireland will deliver yet again on the big occasion when the T20 World Cup qualifiers kick off in the UAE tomorrow morning against Namibia.

Ireland have benefitted from the West Indian's vast international experience - he played 169 times in Tests and ODI's - to qualify for the last stages of the five qualifying tournaments he's been involved with, and the 50-year-old sees no reason to doubt that it won't be six in a row come the end of the month.

"There's a lot of experience in our squad with the guys having accumulated a lot of caps over the years, and that's a fantastic asset to have as a coach, especially in the pressure cooker of qualifying competitions," said Simmons, now a veteran of 188 games as Irish coach.

"The players have always risen to the occasion and I've no doubt that will be the case again over the next two weeks.

"We have quality throughout the ranks and in Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien have two of the most explosive batsmen not just in Associate cricket but in world cricket.

“I compared Stirlo following the last T20 competition to Chris Gayle and Virender Sehwag - he really is that special.

“Kevin has found himself to be very much in demand on the T20 circuit with appearances in England, Bangladesh and the West Indies.

"He's also bowling exceptionally well at the minute and that gives William Porterfield another option in that department."

The side has also been boosted by the return of Alex Cusack from injury, with the Clontarf all-rounder delighted to be back in an Irish shirt after missing most of the domestic season with a back injury.

"It's great to be back playing after the frustrations of recent months. It felt good bowling against the Dutch this week and it's always pleasing to pick up wickets to help the side win."

Cusack was named Player of the Tournament as Ireland qualified in 2010 in Dubai, and is a vital component of the Irish attack in the shortest format of the game.

Cusack continued: "It's funny but I had most of my success in that competition as a batsman, although I do appreciate that my role this time around will be concentrated on bowling.

“I try and bowl with as much variety as possible, with slower balls and cutters proving a very potent force on the slower pitches out here.

“With fast outfields and pretty flat decks, changes of pace and keeping the batsmen guessing are vital assets for a bowler to have in his armoury.

"There's a lot of experienced bowlers in our ranks, with Trent Johnston, Tim Murtagh and myself, and it's balanced with the younger guys like Max Sorensen, Stuart Thompson, George Dockrell, Paul Stirling and Andy McBrine all raring to contribute to the Irish cause."

One major advantage Ireland have over most of their rivals at the tournament is the fact that the majority of their squad are full-time professional cricketers - seven being based with English counties, supplemented by those contracted on full-time contracts by Cricket Ireland.

Simmons agrees that could be vital as the intensity of the competition (Ireland face seven games in just ten days in the group stages) means fitness will be severely tested.

He added: "During the tournament here last year we got stronger as the games went on while other sides wilted.

“The guys train incredibly hard and are backed up by the backroom staff who do a fantastic job keeping the players fit and helping them recover after games.

“We'll manage and monitor everyone throughout and if we have to use our entire squad then that won't be a problem. We have got strength, quality and depth throughout."

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