The South African yesterday named a 15-man squad with 1,925 caps between them. Eight have played more than 100 times for their country but they face a tough task in making the 2019 tournament proper in England and Wales which has been controversially slimmed down to ten sides.
Two groups of five teams will contest for the right to make next year’s event and Ireland have been paired with the West Indies (who will be their greatest threat), the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and the winners of the World Cricket League Division 2.
Only one of them will qualify, plus the winners of the second group.
“It’s going to be a very cut-throat competition with just two places on offer but we have the ability to make it to a fourth final if we play to our potential,” Ford said. Ireland will prep for the qualifiers with four practise matches and a training camp in South Africa.
Ford is only in place since mid-December and will have little time to pause for thought as Ireland juggle a packed calendar that includes T20 obligations as well as the inaugural first-class Test game in the nation’s history when Pakistan visit Malahide in May.
Plenty to look forward to, then, for the 20 players awarded central contracts by Cricket Ireland yesterday. Fourteen of them have been assigned up to full-time deals while six are players with county commitments in England thus signed to part-time arrangements.