Ireland’s young guns ready to step up at World T20, says Kevin O’Brien

Ireland all-rounder Kevin O’Brien says the younger members of the squad are ready to make the “step up” to the big stage in the ICC World Twenty20 in India.

Ireland’s young guns ready to step up at World T20, says Kevin O’Brien

John Bracewell’s side start their first-round campaign against Oman today, before facing Asia Cup finalists Bangladesh on Friday and the Netherlands on Sunday.

If Ireland top the group, they will face Super 10 fixtures against Pakistan, Australia, hosts India, and New Zealand.

O’Brien, 32, a veteran of three World Cups and four World Twenty20s, believes younger cricketers, such as 24-year-old all-rounder Stuart Thompson and fast bowler Craig Young, 25, are ready to write a new chapter in the history of Irish cricket.

“We’ve obviously a lot of experience, with a little bit of youth and flair thrown in, which is what you need,” said O’Brien.

“Stuart Thompson has probably got a little bit more of a leadership role within the team now, and Craig Young has the knack of swinging the new ball and taking early wickets.”

O’Brien believes the Ireland squad has become more focused on core skills since New Zealander John Bracewell replaced Phil Simmons as head coach, following the 2015 World Cup.

“The dynamic of the squad has changed, and gone are the days where we had six or seven all-rounders in the team,” he continued.

“We’ve got a lot more specialist people in the squad and in the final 11.”

Captain William Porterfield, who like O’Brien has represented Ireland in eight major ICC tournaments in the past nine years, says all 15 squad members are “fit and raring to go”.

Fast bowler Boyd Rankin, representing Ireland again after an unhappy couple of years with England, will lead the attack against Oman in the Himalayan city of Dharamsala, sharing the new ball with Young or Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh, while Andrew McBrine is set to get the nod over George Dockrell as the side’s sole spinner.

“Everyone is in contention, so we will pick sides depending on what we will come up against during the day,” said Porterfield.

“We will take the opposition and the type of pitch into the equation, but we’re selecting from a full 15.”

Meanwhile Scotland’s long wait for a first victory in a global tournament goes on after a 14-run defeat in their opening ICC World Twenty20 fixture against Afghanistan.

Hopes rose during an opening stand of 84 in pursuit of 170 for five in Nagpur that Preston Mommsen’s team might pull off a revenge success following their one-wicket loss to Afghanistan in Dunedin at last year’s World Cup.

However, it was not to be, as George Munsey and Kyle Coetzer each fell short of their 50s, and then the boundaries dried up on the way to 156 for five.

Matt Machan and Mommsen himself kept the result in doubt, but, with 21 needed off the last over, Scotland could not quite break their long-standing duck.

They therefore face an improbable route to qualification from Group B, in which Afghanistan and yesterday’s other winners Zimbabwe are the front-runners.

Zimbabwe avoided an upset in the opening game of the sixth ICC World Twenty20 tournament as they beat Hong Kong by 14 runs in Nagpur.

Opener Vusi Sibanda set the Test side on the way with 59 from 46 balls, while Elton Chigumbura hit three late sixes to help them post 158-8 from 20 overs.

Hong Kong’s hopes rested with former Warwickshire batsman Jamie Atkinson.

However, when he fell for 53 from 44 balls, Hong Kong’s slim chances disappeared with him, as they finished on 144-6.

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