Ireland upbeat for Intercontinental Cup game with UAE

Trent Johnston
Trent Johnston

Ireland begin their quest for a fourth Intercontinental Cup success when they take on the United Arab Emirates in Sharjah on Tuesday.

Trent Johnston is the competition's leading wicket-taker and was part of the first Irish win in 2005.

"Conditions are going to be difficult so we have to be disciplined in all areas of the game," warned Johnston.

"We've trained hard and are well prepared. In terms of experience and class we should beat UAE," he added.

Johnston skippered the triumphant 2005 Ireland side, which included Niall O'Brien and Andrew White, who all contributed to one of the most famous victories in the country's history - a six-wicket win against a Kenyan side who had scored a mammoth 401 for 4 in their first innings.

Johnston recalled: "It was great to be a part of that win. People talk about 2007 and the World Cup victory against Pakistan being the start of the Irish cricket success story, but for me it can be traced back to that win over Kenya in 2005.

Looking ahead to the games against UAE, Johnston agreed that it is a huge two weeks for the future of Irish cricket.

"Absolutely - we're sitting top of the table for both the Intercontinental Cup and qualification for the 2015 World Cup, but we've got to perform on the pitch."

Ireland's veteran bowler is the leading wicket-taker in the history of the competition with 83 at a cost of just 16 runs apiece

The elder statesman of the squad, who turns 39 next month, clearly still has the hunger and desire for more success.

"It's great to be still playing and still right there in the mix. I'd love to go out with a fourth win in the competition."

Ireland have no injury worries ahead of the clash with the UAE following an early training session at the world record stadium, which has hosted no fewer than 209 one-day internationals.

"Everyone's fit and raring to go. I'm expecting a typical Sharjah pitch, which will be low, slow and with a little turn," said Irish coach Phil Simmons.

"It's up to them to use the conditions which work for them, and we've got to try and combat that. We've acclimatised well, and the guys are a lot sharper than I thought they would be coming from indoor training, which is pleasing."

While the Intercontinental Cup is obviously important to Ireland, Simmons agreed that the two World Cricket League games next week were the most important part of the tour:

"It's fair to say that, but we'll focus on both. It's important for Cricket Ireland to keep winning in all competitions and to keep our place at the top of Associate cricket.

"I'm glad that the four-day game comes first as it'll give the guys a chance to get acclimatised to the pitch and able to spend some time out in the middle."

Ireland currently top the Intercontinental Cup table with 67 points from their four games, ahead of Scotland (46), Afghanistan (44) and Namibia (43). UAE are in sixth place on 30 points.

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