HARARE, Zimbabwe – West Indies believe they have a score to settle when they clash with the dangerous Ireland in their third match of the all-important ICC World Cup qualifiers in a few hours time.
At the World Cup three years ago, the Irish stunned the Caribbean side by four wickets in Nelson, New Zealand, after producing a remarkable run chase to overhaul a competitive 304.
That preliminary round loss has remained with the Windies since then and captain Jason Holder said Saturday’s contest at the Harare Sports Club would be as good a time as any to erase those bitter memories.
“It should be a really good clash. It will give us a gauge of where we are at and where we need to be going,” said Holder, who had been handed the captaincy just months ahead of the World Cup.
“Obviously they beat us in 2015 in the World Cup and we haven’t played them since. [There was] a wash-out encounter last year in Belfast unfortunately so this is another opportunity for us to make wrong things right from the 2015 World Cup.
“It’s still in the back of our minds. Most of the players from 2015 may not be here but there are still a few faces around who had that experience in 2015 and I’m sure everyone will be pumped up and ready for this game.”
Like West Indies, Ireland are unbeaten in Group A, and will present the first real test of the tournament for their Caribbean opponents.
The Windies topped United Arab Emirates by 60 runs in their opener last Tuesday and returned to trounce Papua New Guinea by six wickets two days later. Ireland, meanwhile, got the better of the Netherlands by 93 runs before beating PNG by four wickets.
While the Windies batting flourished against UAE with Shimron Hetmyer and Chris Gayle getting hundreds, it stuttered against PNG and they needed Holder’s calm, unbeaten 99 to see them over the line.
Up against a strong, experienced Irish side, Holder said it was important that his batsmen played sensibly and maximised the innings.
“We’ve just got to give ourselves a chance. It’s important we soak up some pressure up front in our innings and try to bat as deep as possible,” he explained.
“The nature of guys like Chris (Gayle) and Evin (Lewis) who really take control of the power-play and those are dominant figures, so if they can get off and take us deep into the innings that would be really good. The other guys can come in and support.
“We just want to keep playing the cricket we want to play. We always speak in the dressing room about the direction we want to go in and I think we’re hitting the nail on the head.”
He continued: “We’re making improvements. I think this tournament is wonderful for us, it gives us a chance to build momentum, get things going in the ODI format and hopefully we can continue winning in this tournament and win the overall tournament.”
The top three teams from each group will progress to the Super Six stage, where they will play three matches against teams they did not meet in the preliminaries.
The top two sides will meet in the final and book their spots at next year’s World Cup in England.
But while the tournament has been branded as one of minnows, Holder warned that every team was a threat going forward in the competition.
“I was really impressed with especially UAE. I thought those guys were very, very organised,” he pointed out.
“I think on these surfaces it really levels things off because they are so good, batsmen can really cash in on the true nature of the surfaces.
“And likewise with Papua New Guinea – what I like about them is that they never gave up. Even although we (himself and Shai Hope) built a pretty good partnership, they were still chirping and running around and throwing themselves around in the field.”
He added: “I don’t think any team in this competition would be pushovers. Obviously, the higher-ranked sides have to fear these lower-ranked sides because they’ve got nothing to lose so we’ve got to be very, very disciplined with all three disciplines in terms of batting, bowling and fielding, and look to win every single game.”
The match bowls off at 3:30 a.m. Barbados time.
SQUADS: IRELAND – William Porterfield (captain), Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Boyd Rankin, James Shannon, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Gary Wilson.
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Jason Mohammed, Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Sheldon Cottrell, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Nikita Miller, Ashley Nurse, Rovman Powell, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Kesrick Williams.