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Ed JoyceEd Joyce's World Cup Blog

Courtesy of, the Ireland middle-order batsman keeps us up to date with events at the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

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The Irish Underdogs

Friday February 18, 2011

This morning we landed in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and with the start of the World Cup just a few days away, the excitement is really starting to build amongst the squad. Having been out to India several times in my career on training camps and with various county and representative sides, I've had a taste of the Indian people's love of the game but if anything, the Bangladeshi's revere the game even more. The government and people here are extremely proud that they're co-hosting this World Cup and that the opening ceremony is taking place in Dhaka and the welcome we've received has been almost presidential! They even went to the incredible length of clearing the roads of traffic for the various team buses to make their way from the airport to the hotel today. The roads here are notorious for traffic jams so this measure turned what is usually a nightmare hour and a half journey into a pleasant 20 minute drive. This, and all the manic waving from people on the streets, shows just how important cricket is in this part of the world.

Our time here in Dhaka is actually the 4th leg of a journey that began on the 28th January in freezing Dublin. The first part of the trip was spent in Dubai where, thanks largely to the generosity of our main sponsors RSA, we were able to spend a couple of weeks training at the ICC's High Performance Centre. Among the high tech gizmo's designed to make indoor net practise more realistic was a machine called Pro-Batter. It was developed for baseball and has now been adapted for cricket as well. Basically it involves a projector beaming a recorded video of a specific bowler on to a white screen. You actually see the bowler running in and at the point of delivery, the ball is propelled out a hole by a machine behind it exactly where the bowlers hand is. It was great fun to play around with facing different deliveries from various bowlers and it is comfortably the best batting tool I've ever used. Hopefully the way the boys were whacking around Tim Bresnan and Mitchell Johnson on Pro-Batter can be replicated in the actual tournament but something tells me it won't be as easy as that!

As well as training in Dubai, we also played a couple of practise matches against Zimbabwe and Kenya who were also using the facilities out there. Unfortunately we lost both of these games but there were some encouraging performances most notably in the Zim game from our captain William Porterfield who made a breezy 66 and over the 2 games from Alex Cusack, Nigel Jones and Andre Botha who all took a few wickets and bowled tidily. It was also nice to get a few runs in both games myself as I'm obviously desperate to do well after coming into such a successful side after a long absence. We weren't too down-hearted after these losses however as they were our first competitive games in several months and we knew we had so much more in the tank.

So we moved from Dubai on to Nagpur right in the centre of India which was to be our base for a week or so, and also the venue for our final 2 warm up games. We knew that the most important thing from here on in was to make sure we peak going into that first game against Bangladesh on the 25th. With this in mind it was vital that we continue trying to improve our batting against spin, an area Bangladesh are extremely strong in, and fine tune the rest of our game so that we could put in some better performances against New Zealand and Zimbabwe for the second time on the trip. As it turned out, we really should have won both games instead of just the one against Zim. Although New Zealand made 311, the wicket was exceptionally good and we were very confident of getting close. Mid innings, our coach Phil Simmons reminded us that 50 overs is a long time and that we didn't have to go all guns blazing at the start. Stirling and Porterfield clearly weren't listening and both proceeded to flay the ball to all parts and after 10 overs, we were 80 for 0! This is the first time I've seen Stirlo in full swing and by the looks of things, Ireland has a gem of a player for the forseeable future. One straight 6 off Kyle Mills in particular will live long in the memory. After our rollicking start, the middle order all got going without making a really telling contribution and this explains why we ended up 32 runs short of our target at the end. But this was a much improved performance against a very good New Zealand side and we could look forward to our game against Zimbabwe knowing that with a few tweaks, a win was just around the corner.

Trent Johnston and Boyd Rankin gave us the perfect start to that final warm-up game reducing Zimbabwe to 12 for 3 at one stage and although Elton Chigumbura made an excellent century to bring them up to 244, we certainly would have taken that total at the start of the day. Our successful chase was especially pleasing because of the way we negated the spin threat of Zimbabwe, who fielded 6 spinners, and also the fact that 3 of the lads who hadn't been in the runs so far on the tour, Kevin O'Brien, Alex Cusack and Andre Botha got going and won the game for us. This means that virtually everyone in the squad has had at least one good performance with either bat or ball going into the competition proper which is certainly a nice situation to be in.

And so to that first game here in Dhaka in 8 days time. There's no doubting we'll be underdogs for it, as we will for most of our games out here, and the last time we played Bangladesh away they beat us 3-0. But they are a side Ireland has had a lot of success against in the recent past. The most notable of those victories was in the Super 8's stage of the last 50 over World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007 but there have also been wins in the 20 over World Cup in 2009 in England, and in 2010 back home in Belfast that all suggest that we can certainly beat them again this time if we get our performance right on the day. And while all is not lost if we don't get off to a winning start, it would certainly give us great momentum if we could win and hopefully that will provide us with a springboard to recreate the atmosphere and support that the Ireland cricket team received 4 years ago.

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