Cricketers step into the unknown against Afghanistan in Super Eight qualifier

IRELAND take a step into the unknown today with a first match against Afghanistan as the Super Eight phase of the 2011 World Cup qualifiers commences in Gauteng.

A year ago it would have seemed impossible that cricketers from the war-torn country could ever be so close to a place on the big stage.

Hut after victories in World League divisions five, four and three that dream has been realised.

Although with no carry-over wins, Afghanistan probably need to win all four of their Super Eight games to claim one of the four World Cup invitations available.

Ireland captain William Porterfield is aware of their threat. He said: “There are some very dangerous opponents left to play and we won’t be taking any of them lightly — so I’ll be looking for us to push on and improve with every game.”

Porterfield has set a goal of winning every match in the tournament which would mean building on a clean sweep of five wins in Group A with victories over Afghanistan, the UAE, Holland and Kenya before finals day next Sunday.

Porterfield said: “Two more wins would assure us of a place in the World Cup — our first objective — but we’re looking to win all five remaining. We’ve never won a one-day tournament outside Ireland and we’re looking to rectify that.”

Ireland will have left-arm opening bowler Phil Eaglestone joining the ranks later today, to replace the injured Andre Botha, while Kyle McCallan is inching nearer to a first game after injury. The veteran off-spinner and record cap holder has been told he can bowl in the nets on Monday and that if he his cracked ribs show no adverse reaction he could be in line for a return to the side as early as Wednesday’s match against Holland.

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