Series Preview: Ireland v Pakistan

Ireland

Ireland play host to Pakistan in a two-match ODI series in Belfast, the first meeting between the two sides since the famous World Cup upset in 2007.

<b>Overview</b><br>Misbah-ul-Haq will become Pakistan's fifth ODI captain in three years when the tourists take on Ireland in a two-match series.

Fresh from their tour to the West Indies, Pakistan will contest both matches against the Irish in Belfast, with the first encounter on Saturday.

Misbah was handed the limited-overs captaincy last week following the sacking of Shahid Afridi who, it was subsequently announced, is not travelling to Ireland due to the health of his father.

The new skipper and his team will have to acclimatise quickly after leaving the sunny Caribbean for the cool, wet and breezy conditions in Belfast. The Stormont ground, the venue for both games, was too wet on Thursday to allow Ireland to train and with the weather unlikely to improve drastically, Saturday's action could also be under threat.

The Irish will feel that the unfamiliar weather, and the fact that the tourists have been away from home for more than a month, will play into their favour as they look to repeat their impressive displays in the World Cup earlier in the year.

Since Ireland knocked Pakistan out of the 2007 World Cup – the only previous ODI meeting between the sides, they have gone from strength to strength, defeating England at this year's edition. Victory in even one of the two games against Pakistan will consolidate their 10th place ranking in the ODI table, just four places behind the tourists.

Afridi will probably be missed more by the Irish public – he was a popular professional for Ireland in 2006 – than his team-mates because his bowling is much more dangerous than his batting these days and, as Pakistan proved in the Test matches in the West Indies, they have plenty of quality slow bowling.

Between them Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez took 32 of the 40 wickets in the two Tests, although it is unlikely the Stormont pitch will turn nearly as much as in Guyana or St Kitts.

Ireland coach Phil Simmons, the former West Indies all-rounder, is hoping for a similar surface to the one served up at Stormont for the ODIs against Bangladesh in July last year.

That pitch didn't turn, the Tigers were tamed and Ireland drew the series 1-1.

While Pakistan have a 15-man squad at their disposal, including the returning duo Umar Gul and Younis Khan, Ireland will be without the injured Niall O'Brien and George Dockrell.

O'Brien, Man of the Match in the 2007 World Cup match between the teams, is averaging 94 in one-day cricket for his county Northamptonshire this year.

Dockrell, a talented 18-year-old left-arm spinner, took this year's World Cup by storm but hasn't bowled a ball since dislocating his shoulder in Ireland's last game against the Netherlands in Kolkata 10 weeks ago.

<b>Key Players</b><br><i>Ireland:</i> In the absence of Niall O'Brien Ireland will need <b>Ed Joyce</B> to come to the party. The left-hander will be required to provide the back bone for the home side's batting efforts.

<i>Pakistan:</i> In conditions that will be well suited to his bowling, <b>Umar Gul</b> will have a major role to play on his return to the Pakistan squad. While the tourists are well stocked with spin options, it is in the seam department where they were disappointing and an inexperienced attack will benefit greatly from Gul's presence.

<b>Only ODI Head-To-Head Result</b><br>March 2007: World Cup Group D: Ireland won by three wickets in Kingston.

<b>Prediction</b><br> Ireland will fancy their chances. They are a confident side no matter who they're up against and, especially at home, will have a good go. It is difficult, however, to see them pulling off an upset against Pakistan who, though missing Afridi, will be buoyed by the returning quality and experience of Gul and Khan. If the weather holds, the tourists will battle their way to a 2-0 series win.

<b>Squads</b><br><i>Ireland:</i> William Porterfield (captain), Alex Cusack, Trent Johnson, Nigel Jones, Ed Joyce, Niall McDonnell, John Mooney, Kevin O'Brien, Andrew Poyneter, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Albert van der Merwe, Andrew White, Gary Wilson.

<i>Pakistan:</i>Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Abdur Rehman, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Hammad Azam, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Salman, Saeed Ajmal, Tanvir Ahmed, Tafueeq Umar, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Younis Khan.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>First ODI in Belfast on May 28<br>Second ODI in Belfast on May 30

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