Extra added incentive’ – Ireland coach Graham Ford pre-empts hard-fought battle with Afghanistan

reland are on the hunt for revenge as their new rivals come to town for a six-match T20I and ODI series.

Having overcome the Irish in the latest full series between the two sides in 2017 and pipping them to 2019 ICC World Cup Qualification in the Super Six in Harare in March, Afghanistan will be in high spirits, and following a sequence of tightly contested bouts in the last year, both sides are keen to come up in trumps in one of cricket’s newest rivalries.

“Ireland and Afghanistan have played some great encounters over recent years and I expect this series will be no different. We have played four one-day internationals in the last 12 months, with the results being two-apiece,” added Ford.

“For our lads, I expect that to be a little extra added incentive given the last clash was the effective World Cup Qualifier final which we did not play to our best on the day. While that is behind us now, we will be looking to bounce back and show what we can do in front of the home fans.

'We will be looking to bounce back and show what we can do in front of the home fans'- Ford
‘We will be looking to bounce back and show what we can do in front of the home fans’- Ford

“The season has been an important one for Irish cricket and I am pleased with the progress we are making, but acknowledging there is much more to do, particularly in the T20 arena. The Pakistan Test, India T20Is and even the Ireland Wolves series against Bangladesh A have thrown up a variety of challenges, and allowed us to experiment with selections and tactics. We’ll continue to refine these over the Afghan series, keeping in mind that this is a gradual process building up towards the World T20 Qualifier tournament in 2019.”

Afghanistan head coach Phil Simmons was equally expectant of a tense clash between the two sides, citing the potential of star players such as Rashid Khan – the MRF Tyres No.1 ranked bowler in T20I cricket – while also acknowledging the importance of acclimatising to English-like conditions ahead of their Cricket World Cup campaign next year.

“There have been some terrific tussles between the sides over the past decade and I expect the upcoming matches to be no different,” said Simmons.

“We have enjoyed great success in the T20 format in recent years and have climbed above Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to eighth in the current ICC rankings. We have great strength and depth to the squad which has an experienced spine and players who have starred in T20 leagues right across the globe. Rashid Khan is the number one ranked T20I bowler and Mohammed Nabi the number one all-rounder, while Mujeeb has been a revelation since coming into the side a year ago.”

Simmons, now Afghanistan coach, was coach of Ireland for 224 matches between 2007 and 2015
Simmons, now Afghanistan coach, was coach of Ireland for 224 matches between 2007 and 2015

“The six matches includes three ODIs and will give the squad vital exposure to UK conditions ahead of next year’s World Cup and forms a crucial part of our preparations.”

Simmons’ focus is entirely with the Afghanistan set-up now, but he was once head coach of opponents Ireland, and as he prepares his team for the tour, he reflected on the upward journey that both these sides have been on since gaining ICC Full Member status.

“It’s fantastic for me to be bringing a side back to Ireland where I enjoyed so much success over a long period of time,” he said.

“Both countries have been on a similar path gaining Full Membership and we are now looking to take our game to the next level. I hope Irish and Afghanistan fans will come out in force to watch both teams in what will be a riveting battle between the sides.”

Ireland and Afghanistan will play three T20Is on 20, 22 and 24 August before the three-match ODI series commences on 27 August.

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