Cricket coach Phil Simmons aims for knockout stages

Cricket World Cup: Coach Phil Simmons is confident Ireland can qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup next month.

Cricket coach Phil Simmons aims for knockout stages

Ireland go into the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, which starts on 14 February and runs for six weeks, in good form.

Three wins from their six matches against the West Indies, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India and Pakistan could be enough to see Ireland progress to the quarter-finals, although Simmons is wary of cherry-picking the matches against the UAE, Zimbabwe and a West Indies side riven by internal divisions after the omission of key players Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard.

“We will think about the first match [against the West Indies in Nelson on 16 February] and after that, then we will think about the second one,” he said.

“If we think about winning just three games, we will put ourselves under pressure.”

Ireland, who will wear the logo of new shirt sponsor Tourism Ireland on their freshly-minted fluorescent green World Cup shirts, will be without experienced seam bowler Tim Murtagh for the tournament.

Murtagh, 33, fractured a bone in his foot during January’s acclimatisation camp in Dubai, and will be replaced by The Hills’ pace bowler Max Sorensen, who had been omitted from Simmons’ initial 15-man World Cup squad.

“I met with Phil for coffee the day after the announcement and my reaction was one of complete devastation, but I had to just move on, and try to work harder,’ Sorensen said.

“I was rooming with Tim in Dubai when he broke his foot and I am gutted for him. I feel for him and I know what he is going through. But for me it is full steam ahead — I need to try and convince the selectors I should be in the starting 11 for the first match.”

Ireland will rely heavily on the runs of Ed Joyce, who recorded seven centuries for Sussex in England’s county championship last year but is nursing a chronic hip injury that will require careful medical management.

Joyce and Eoin Morgan have scored one-day international centuries in Australia while playing for England, but the 36-year-old is hopeful that a third Irishman may achieve the feat in a green shirt during this World Cup.

Meanwhile England one-day international cricket captain Eoin Morgan has been targeted in an alleged blackmail plot following a relationship with an Australian woman.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said it received an email from a man demanding a five-figure sum to prevent a story about the pair appearing in national newspapers in the UK and Australia.

The governing body said the individual — who is the woman’s current boyfriend — apologised when they confronted him in Australia following discussions with the Metropolitan Police in London.

The ECB said it is not seeking further action against him “at this stage”.

Paul Downton, ECB managing director, said in a statement: “We will not allow anyone to disrupt our team’s preparation or performance in the tri-series and as we build up to the World Cup.”

Dubliner Morgan, 28, was named as England captain last month.

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