Ireland and United Arab Emirates both emerged with much credit from their opening World Cup games.
It seems a lifetime ago that Ireland beat West Indies in their tournament opener in Nelson - a result that, at the time, was greeted less with surprise but more with resignation at the plight of West Indies cricket.
The men in maroon have since undergone a mini-renaissance, while the men in green have had an eight-day break that will hardly have done them any favours.
They would have wanted to build on their win and fully utilise the feel-good factor. Instead, their players have spent the past week leading the chorus of ICC-bashing; protesting against the governing body’s decision to reduce the 2019 event to just 10 teams. The petition against the move, set up by cricket writer Nick Sharland, has so far gathered almost 6,000 signatures.
Veteran UAE batsman Khurram Khan has also weighed in to the debate as his side look for their first ever World Cup win, saying, “You cannot just expect us to come to a World Cup and do well without playing any other games against them (the other teams) before the World Cup. We have to have more opportunities playing against these teams.” The fact that teams frequently visit the UAE to play Pakistan or other sides makes the lack of fixtures for the Emiratis particularly inexcusable.
Strengths and weaknesses:
As far as the actual match tomorrow is concerned, Ireland will start as firm favourites, with the Gabba traditionally favouring pace and thus negating UAE’s spin strength. Having said that, it was spin that played a key part for Ireland in their win so they will have an interesting selection dilemma ahead of the toss.
Their main advantage over their opponents is a far greater level of experience, with more than half of their players regulars on the county circuit and many of UAE’s having to hold down other jobs besides cricket. Ireland’s biggest weakness is probably the lack of an out-and-out quick bowler since England poached Boyd Rankin. Craig Young and Peter Chase are promising but inexperienced and didn’t start against West Indies.
UAE have a relatively strong batting line-up as illustrated in their impressive display against Zimbabwe. Veteran Khurram Khan will lead the way, but Krishna Chandran, Swapnil Patil and Shaiman Anwar all showed that they are more than capable. Anwar was particularly impressive. As mentioned, UAE traditionally rely on spin, but have a couple of useful seam-bowling all-rounders in Amjad Javed and Mohammad Naveed.
As the oldest side in the tournament, as well as them being only semi-professional, fielding is a glaring weakness, something identified by Khurram.
"Definitely I would say in the fielding [is our weakness],” he said. “We missed three run-out chances [against Zimbabwe]. There were runs that have been given to three or four boundaries. Every run matters in these kind of games because it's a high scoring tournament so far and the grounds are very fast, so I think any run you can save, obviously."
Ireland will mull over the addition of another pace bowler but it will be hard to leave out either frontline spinner Andy McBrine or George Dockrell after their performances against West Indies. Craig Young, Peter Chase, Alex Cusack or Stuart Thompson are the other options in the squad, with Young perhaps most likely to start if a spinner was omitted.
Possible XI: William Porterfield (captain), Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Andrew Balbirnie, Gary Wilson (wicket-keeper), Kevin O’Brien, John Mooney, Max Sorensen, Craig Young, George Dockrell.
Manjula Guruge, Fahad Alhashmi, Kamran Shahzad are the other seam-bowling options in the squad for UAE if they look to strengthen that department and leave out either Nasir Aziz or Rohan Mustafa. Wicket-keeper Saqlain Haider is the other squad member but is unlikely to start on this occasion.
Possible XI: Amjad Ali, Andri Berenger, Krishna Chandran, Khurram Khan, Swapnil Patil (wicket-keeper), Shaiman Anwar, Rohan Mustafa, Amjad Javed, Mohammad Naveed, Mohammad Tauqir (captain), Nasir Aziz.
Conditions and timings:
A day-night contest is in store at the Gabba, with a start time of 0330 GMT. It was the scene of the earlier washout between Australia and Bangladesh and there is a small chance of further showers. Otherwise it will be warm, with highs of 27 degrees Celsius and only a slight breeze. As is the norm at the ground, the pitch is expected to favour seam over spin and be fast and true.
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