Struggling West Indies look to cross Ireland hurdle

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Nelson (New Zealand), Feb 15: A struggling West Indies will hope to avoid the proverbial banana skin against minnows Ireland in their opening match of the cricket World Cup at Saxton Oval here tomorrow.

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The Jason Holder-led West Indies have not had a smooth run into the 50-over showpiece event after being thrashed by England in its first warm-up encounter and then just scraped through Scotland by three runs in their second practice game.

Struggling West Indies look to cross Ireland hurdle

Being leading contenders to fill the fourth quarter-final spot alongwith India, Pakistan and South Africa from Group B, the West Indies players do not look to be in the best frame of mind.

Still trying to get over the omissions of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the World Cup squad, West Indies were skittled out for 122 by the England bowlers in Sydney to finally go down by nine wickets.

Even against Scotland, the maroon brigade did manage a big score but the bowlers were unable to contain the Scottish batsmen, who narrowly fell short of their 314-run target.

The team hasn't enjoyed the best of times after the players' strike that led to its Indian tour being cut short in October 2014. Dwyane, who led the protest, faced the World Cup axe and Holder, 23, became the youngest-ever West Indies captain.

The young pacer though still tried to put up a brave face before the 50-over showpiece event.

"Not having them would be a huge loss to any side. But it's beyond our control and we have to accept it and move on. Obviously, the bigger picture is for the team to do well in this World Cup and starting the World Cup well and carrying the momentum through," Holder said.

Ireland, who shocked Pakistan in the 2007 edition in West Indies, have played good cricket under William Porterfield. Even in the warm-up games, Ireland made an impression by stunning Bangladesh in their second practice match.

Former England international and now Scotland coach Paul Collingwood believes the benefits Ireland have from several players performing in English county cricket will make them tough to beat.

"They're a well-drilled unit, and a lot of their players have county experience, so you know they are going to cause teams problems," he said. So they might carry the tag of 'minnows' but West Indies will take them lightly at their own peril.

PTI

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