herald

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Ireland head into tomorrow morning's crunch World Cup clash with Pakistan (Live Sky Sports, 3.30am) fighting not only for a place in the quarter-finals but also for their future in the competition.

Ireland head into tomorrow morning's crunch World Cup clash with Pakistan (Live Sky Sports, 3.30am) fighting not only for a place in the quarter-finals but also for their future in the competition.

Victory at the Adelaide Oval guarantees the boys in Green a spot in the last eight, and a meeting with co-hosts Australia, while a variety of other permutations are also on offer depending on their result and that of West Indies versus United Arab Emirates.

But the major underlying theme - of the match and the tournament itself - is the fact that under present plans the future of associate nations such as the Irish is under threat.

In 2019 the tournament will shrink from its current 14 teams to 10, with eight spots locked in and only two available to qualifiers.

Ireland's players have have not been quiet about their opposition to those plans and veteran Ed Joyce took up the baton ahead of Sunday's crucial encounter.

"The chance to break into the quarter-finals of a World Cup definitely makes it the biggest game we've ever had," Joyce said.

"We have a cause that we fight for. We are trying to grow the game at home and show the ICC the folly of keeping the next World Cup to 10 teams, not allowing nations like us ourselves a fair chance to get in.

"A 10-team World Cup isn't really a World Cup at all - it's a glorified Champions Trophy.

"It's really disappointing that we could be on the verge (of) Ireland's last World Cup game for a long time, either against Pakistan or in the knockouts. That's not being defeatist; it's just being realistic."

Like Ireland, Pakistan can assure their continued participation with victory, but in order to do so their batsmen have been told to up their contribution.

Only captain Misbah-ul-Haq has been close to his best in the competition, though they have yet to record a century between them.

And batting coach Grant Flower was clear that would need to change.

"They are yet to fire and I would like to think their best is still to come," former Zimbabwe international Flower said.

"I expect the top order to show some more spine.

"They showed glimpses of their talent but for such good players they are they need to show more. They are aware that they can bat a lot better than they have."

The game is a rematch of Ireland's famous St Patrick's Day win in Kingston eight years ago, a result that was later overshadowed by the death of Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer in his hotel room the following day.

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