Little goes a long way as Ireland bid for World Cup spot

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09 May 2023 | 04:28 AM staff

Little goes a long way as Ireland bid for World Cup spot

If Ireland record a 3-0 sweep against Bangladesh, they could leapfrog South Africa in the Super League standings and qualify for the showpiece event

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie believes the return of Joshua Little from the Indian Premier League for a series against Bangladesh that could see his side qualify for the World Cup proves how much international cricket still matters to the left-arm seamer.

The equation is simple for Ireland - record a 3-0 sweep against Bangladesh in Chelmsford starting on Tuesday, May 9. It could help them leapfrog South Africa to the eighth position in the World Cup Super League standings and secure automatic qualification for the 50-over showpiece event in India later this year.

The 23-year-old has been a cornerstone of the table-topping Gujarat Titans in this edition of the league, taking six wickets, including a player-of-the-match 2-25 against the Kolkata Knight Riders at Eden Gardens last week.

But, amid talk of the threat posed to international cricket by the expansion of franchise tournaments across the globe, Little has rejoined the Ireland set-up for the first time since the tour of Zimbabwe in January.

"It's a huge boost. He has become a world-class operator, and we're very grateful to have him back into the squad for these games," Balbirnie stated in the pre-match press conference on Monday.

"He's obviously had a really good time of it at the IPL. Hopefully, from our point of view, he can have a good week performance-wise and have an impact for us.

"There's no angst about him not playing for us in certain games. We're just delighted with the progress he's made," he added. 

The first spots in the 10-team World Cup go to the top eight finishers of the WCSL, a competition that has run over the last three years. Reigning champions England, India, New Zealand, Australia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have already assured their places.

The bottom five Super League teams travel to the World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe from June 18, which will decide the final two entrants into the main event.

Ireland, beaten 2-0 away to Bangladesh in an ODI series in Sylhet in March, have enjoyed their most significant days in the format, with spectacular World Cup wins over Pakistan (2007) and England (2011).

But they have struggled for series wins against leading nations. "Consistency is what we crave as a team, but at the same time we know we are playing against world-class players and it's difficult to beat these teams in a series," Balbirnie said.

Balbirnie admitted it was "disappointing" to play this week's matches in Chelmsford rather than at home, with Irish pitches not deemed up to ODI standard at this early stage in the season. The expense of erecting temporary facilities required for staging internationals in Ireland was another reason for moving the fixtures.

Squads for the ODI series:

Ireland: Andy Balbirnie (Captain), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Stephen Doheny, Fionn Hand, Graham Hume, Josh Little, Andy McBrine, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young

Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal (Captain), Litton Das, Rony Talukdar, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Towhid Hridoy, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Yasir Ali, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Taijul Islam, Ebadot Hossain, Shoriful Islam, Mustafizur Rahman, Hasan Mahmud, Mrittunjoy Chowdhury

(With inputs from AFP)

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Ireland vs BangladeshIreland and Bangladesh in England, 2023IrelandBangladeshAndy BalbirnieJoshua Little

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