The excitement is palpable as one of the most enthralling tournaments in world cricket is almost upon us. The ICC T20I World Cup gets underway this month, and we preview the 16 teams that will be competing to lift the famous trophy. Here we have the lowdown on Ireland.

2021 has been a bit of a mixed year for Ireland, who find themselves in 12th place in the ICC rankings going into the T20I World Cup. The minnows have won just three of the eight T20Is they have played this year. And with a tricky qualifying group awaiting them, qualification to the Super 12s is by no means guaranteed. But having already beaten South Africa in an ODI earlier this year, Ireland will certainly not be short on confidence as they look to make the upcoming T20I World Cup another memorable one for them.

Recent Form

Ireland have played only two T20I series this year. They suffered a whitewash against South Africa in July, but managed to overcome the challenge of Zimbabwe in a five-match series last month. Their record in the ODIs hasn’t been the best either, with just four wins to their name in 2021. But one of those wins came against a full-strength South Africa side in Dublin.

Biggest Strength

Ireland’s biggest strength is their competitive batting line-up that features a number of talented players. Captain Andy Balbirnie scored a century in the above mentioned win over South Africa, while Paul Stirling is in excellent form going into the tournament. Add Kevin O’Brien and Harry Tector into the mix, and Ireland’s batting order definitely looks formidable.

Biggest Weakness

There is no lack of quality in this Ireland team, especially when you consider some of the other teams in the two qualifying groups. But their lack of recent cricket could be one of the reasons that prevents them from making it to the Super 12s. The Green and Whites haven’t played much cricket as a team over the last 12 months. And whenever they have played, they have been inconsistent in all departments.

Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie has vast experience to call upon with
7 ODI centuries to his name

What the media are saying

Ireland are undergoing a period of transition at the moment, so the expectations of famous wins over the big boys are not on anyone’s mind at the moment. The media have been quick to dampen expectations, citing the team’s poor historical record in the tournament. But there is still a hope and an expectation that Ireland will be able to qualify for the Super 12s.

Big-hitter Paul Stirling has starred in some of the biggest T20 leagues around the world including the Vitality t20 Blast and The Hundred

Star Player

Ireland have a number of talented players in their ranks. But their best player this year has been Paul Stirling, who is in the form of his life at the moment. The opening batter has scored 277 runs for his country this year at an average of 39.57. He also helped the Southern Brave win the Hundred this year, and was voted Man of the Match for his knock of 61 in the final. His swashbuckling batting will certainly be key to Ireland’s hopes.

 

Gareth Delany has impressed in his short international career thus far with 2 T20I 50’s already and a hand full of wickets 

Keep an eye on…

Gareth Delany could be Ireland’s breakout star at the World Cup after being recalled to the squad. The 24 year old brings with a lot of T20 experience, having played for Leicestershire at the T20 Blast. The power hitting batsman also has a strike rate of 150 in T20I cricket and can bat anywhere in the order. What’s more, he is also a handy legbreak bowler and the conditions in the UAE will certainly suit him.

Projected XI

Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien, Andy Balbirnie (c), Harry Tector, Gareth Delany, Neil Rock (wk), Shane Getkate, Simi Singh, Mark Adair, George Dockrell, Josh Little

Prediction

Qualifying for Super 12s will be the aim for Ireland. And with the individual quality they have in their squad, they will no doubt fancy their chances. Anything beyond that will likely be too far out of their reach. But as we have seen so many times over the years with Ireland, you can never count them out.