Already assured of a place in the 2015 Cricket World Cup quarterfinals, India will be aiming to secure top spot in Pool B against an Ireland team looking for a victory that would take the upset specialists through to the last eight. The meeting at Hamilton’s Seddon Park also features two teams that have, in different ways, been surprise packages of the competition so far in Australia and New Zealand.
After a hugely disappointing performance in a tri-series against England and Australia ahead of the event, the chances of India holding onto the World Cup trophy they lifted in 2011 looked slim. But following impressive wins over rivals Pakistan and hotly tipped South Africa, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men have maintained their momentum and their perfect record with comfortable wins over the United Arab Emirates and the West Indies.
The batting performances, led by Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, have been strong, but more eye-catching has been the displays of India’s bowling attack. What looked to be the weakest area of India’s team ahead of the World Cup has been a key component so far, limiting their opponents to under 225 runs in all four matches. That has helped the nation amass eight-straight wins in the World Cup, dating back to their 2011 triumph, equaling the record mark for India set by Sourav Ganguly’s team in 2003. And Ganguly has been as impressed as anyone by what he has seen from the current team.
“The Indian bowlers have surpassed everyone's expectations,” he said, reports the Times of India. “[Mohammed] Shami has been consistent and Umesh [Yadav] has worked up great pace. Mohit [Sharma], too, has surprised me, he has improved with each match and is making the team look all the more powerful. The way these guys are playing, I won't be surprised if they go on to win the World Cup. But I don't think you can compare eras, the 2003 team was good, and so is this one.”
India have only met Ireland twice, winning convincingly on both occasions. But this time they will encounter an Ireland team riding high and closing in on a substantial achievement. The Associate nation have already beaten full International Cricket Council members the West Indies and Zimbabwe, while also knocking off the United Arab Emirates. Those results have left them needing just one point from their final two matches, against India and Pakistan, in order to move onto the quarterfinals. Getting a win over India would prove Ireland’s biggest giant-killing act yet, but captain William Porterfield insists he is unfazed by the challenge.
“Every game there's the same amount of points up for grabs, and the India game is no different,” he said, reports BBC Sport. “We've got to go into that looking to take two points and follow from there. That is out next challenge and it's one we are looking forward to.”
Match time: Tuesday, 2 p.m. local time, Monday 9 p.m. EDT.
TV channel: DISH Network, Mediacom and Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch the match via pay per view. More info here.