Opposite captains Mommsen and Asghar preview Scotland-Afghanistan match
All four Associate nations, which recently impressed at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, will be in action from Tuesday in their opening round matches of the four-day first-class Intercontinental Cup 2015-17, which is a pathway for Test cricket.
Ireland will face the UAE at Malahide and Scotland will welcome Afghanistan to Stirling.
This is reigning champion Ireland’s seventh appearance in the competition, which also features former winner Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Namibia, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea (PNG), 2004 champion Scotland and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Ireland has participated in all six ICC Intercontinental Cup since its inception in 2004, winning it four times – 2005, 2006-7, 2007-8 and 2011-13. In all, it has played 32 matches; winning 20, losing just two and drawing 10. In contrast, Tuesday’s game will be the UAE’s sixth appearance in the competition which it has yet to win. To date, it has played 27 matches, winning seven, losing ten and drawing 10.
Tuesday’s encounter will also mark John Bracewell’s first competitive match in charge of the Ireland side. Looking ahead to the match, the former New Zealand Test off-spinner said: “It’s a hugely important game for us as we take the first step on our ambition to become a Test playing nation. That opportunity was one of the primary reasons I took on the job of Ireland Head Coach. It’s incredibly exciting for the team and the country as we look to write new chapters in our cricketing history.
“The team has a fantastic record in the competition having won it four times and we’d like nothing better than to make it five wins. We’ve selected a very strong squad for the game and are at full strength. We’ve got a lot of experienced players in our ranks who’ve played a lot of multi-day cricket.
“It’s nice that my first game in charge will be at home and hopefully the crowd at Malahide will come out and support us this week. It’s obviously a huge boost for us to be playing UAE in home conditions and hopefully we’ll get our campaign off to a winning start against a dangerous UAE side.”
UAE coach Aqib Javed, who won the ICC Cricket World Cup 1992 with Pakistan and then masterminded his side’s qualification to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, said: “Our team are really excited to start the first round of the Intercontinental Cup in Ireland.
“The prospect for the eventual winner of playing Test cricket ensures the pathway for Associate teams to take a seat at the ‘top table’ of cricket is now well and truly established. That long term goal is in everyone’s mind, our job will be to focus on winning session by session, game by game, it goes without saying the team that does that best will win.
“In its conditions, Ireland will, of course, provide a stern test for us. I’m sure they will be feeling confident, we’ll certainly need to be at the top of our game in all three disciplines to beat them.”
Talking about the composition of his side, Aqib said: “We’ve made a few changes to the side that played in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year. We welcome back experienced batsman Saqib Ali, and spin bowlers Ahmed Raza and Fayaaz Ahmed, each of them has experienced success in the longer form of the game. Chirag Suri is a young batter whose domestic performances this year have been very strong while Asif Iqbal has been selected due to his strong performances in domestic cricket. Mohammad Tauqir has been retained as captain and he’ll be supported by a nucleus of highly experience players around him.”
Scotland and Afghanistan, meanwhile, have met three times in the ICC Intercontinental Cup, with Afghanistan winning all three matches. This is Scotland’s seventh appearance in the ICC Intercontinental Cup, which they won in 2004 and were runner up in 2009-10. In all, the Scots have played 27 matches; winning 11, losing six and drawing 10.
For Afghanistan, this will be their third appearance in a competition they won back in 2009-10 and was runner-up to Ireland last time out in 2011-13. Afghanistan has played 15 matches, winning 11, losing just one and drawing three.
Scotland captain Preston Mommsen, who is expected to lead his side in Stirling, said: “We are really looking forward to the challenge of facing Afghanistan in our backyard, at the start of what is a hugely important competition. We will, for the first time, have the chance to push our case for Test match cricket. We expect decent support at Stirling, and we’ll be looking to put in a big performance in our own conditions to get us off to a good start against a talented Afghan team.”
Afghanistan captain Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai added: “The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 was a very good experience for our team, playing under those tough conditions in Australia and New Zealand. We learned a lot playing with Full members, which skills to be improved (batting, bowling and fielding) and how to prepare for top quality matches. Our team has already started to prepare for tougher opposition as onwards we hope to be playing more matches against Full Members. This Intercontinental Cup is an excellent opportunity for Associate teams to qualify for Test cricket and we know that Scotland is a good side, especially at home having played each other several times both in the UAE and Scotland.”
IRELAND (from): William Porterfield (captain), John Anderson, Andrew Balbirnie, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, John Mooney, Tim Murtagh, Andrew McBrine, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson, Craig Young
UAE (from): Mohamed Tauqir (captain), Fayyaz Ahmed, Amjad Ali, Saqib Ali, Shaiman Anwar, Manjula Guruge, Asif Iqbal, Amjad Javed, Khurram Khan, Muhammad Naveed, Swapnil Patil, Ahmed Raza, Chirag Suri, Muhammad Shahzad
Match Referee: Dev Govindjee (South Africa)
Umpires: Chettithody Shamshuddin and Mark Hawthorne
SCOTLAND (from): Preston Mommsen (captain), Richie Berrington, Matthew Cross, Freddie Coleman, Con de Lange, Alasdair Evans, Hamish Gardiner, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, Gavin Main, Safyaan Sharif, Andrew Umeed, Mark Watt
AFGHANISTAN (from): Mohammad Asghar Stanikzai (captain), Mohammad Javed Ahmadi, Mohammad Yamin Ahmadzai, Mirwais Ashraf, Izatullah Dawlatzai, Nasir Jamal, Nawroz Mangal, Mohammad Nabi, Shabir Noori, Mohammad Shahzad, Hashmatullah Shaidi, Sami Ullah Shinwari, Sayed Ahmad Shirzad, Rahmat Shah Zurmati
Match Referee: David Jukes (England)
Umpires: Allan Haggo and Gregory Brathwaite