Porterfield eyes quarter-final spot

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

Will Porterfield

Ireland reached the Super Eight stage of the last World Cup and skipper Will Porterfield expects his side to fare well again this year

Ireland captain Will Porterfield is confident his side can belie their underdog status and progress from the group stages of the World Cup.

The Irish have been placed in Group B, where England, South Africa and co-hosts India are well fancied to take the top three slots.

That would leave one more quarter-final place to fight for between Ireland, the Netherlands, West Indies and Bangladesh.

Like India, Bangladesh will have home advantage, while West Indies can call on pedigree performers like Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kieron Pollard.

However, Ireland faced a similarly daunting challenge in the maiden World Cup four years ago before recording a memorable St Patrick’s Day win over Pakistan to reach the Super Eights.

Porterfield was part of that side and believes they can upset the odds once again.

Speaking ahead of Ireland’s first World Cup warm-up game against New Zealand in Nagpur on Saturday, he said: “Realistically I think we have a great chance of getting out of our group.

“The top four out of seven get there and then there is the knockout stage where anything can happen in one-off games.

“If we focus on getting there, anything could happen in the quarters.

“We’ll be looking to get used to the conditions, but we were out in India before Christmas and we’ve already been together a couple of weeks.

“I think we’ll be pretty well prepared come our first match group match on February 25.”

Ed Joyce

Ed Joyce has returned to the Ireland squad and will hope to make a significant impact as his team look to progress from the group stage

Porterfield, who made the switch from Gloucestershire to Warwickshire over the winter, also ranks the current squad as better than the one which shocked onlookers in 2007.

Key figures like Jeremy Bray and Dave Langford-Smith have retired, while Eoin Morgan transferred his allegiance to England before injury ruled him out of the competition.

But others have come in, with batsman Paul Stirling considered a major talent and Ed Joyce completing the opposite journey to Morgan by recommitting to Ireland.

The biggest difference to Porterfield, though, is the fact that 13 of the 15-man squad are now professional players, a significantly higher figure than the largely amateur class of 2007.

Seven of the party have county deals and six more are contracted by Cricket Ireland, meaning only Nigel Jones and Andrew White hold down day jobs.

Porterfield said: “With 13 of the squad being pros, either playing full-time in England or being centrally contracted, that has been a big strength of the last couple of years.

“We have been able to improve our games by playing day in, day out. The professional set-up is where we’ve really moved on.

“We have got players who can fit any occasion we come up against and I think we have a well-balanced squad going into this tournament.”