World Cup Previews: Ireland & Scotland

First round Group B.


Last time

It was a pretty terrible tournament for the Irish, they beat the Netherlands in an early game when Curtis Campher took four wickets in four balls, and then they got beat by Sri Lanka when the spinners took over. That gave them a must-win match against Namibia, which they did not. No one else other than Paul Stirling even looked like they could hit the ball off the square. They set 126, and Namibia got it two wickets down.

The strength

Ireland has a lot of new ball talent. Mark Adair has shown for a while that he should probably be getting more franchise games. He can swing the ball both ways and is a genuine wicket-taker. Backing him up is Barry McCarthy and Craig Young; neither are on Adair's level, but are very reliable. Although, Young is now out injured, so that's not ideal.

But they also have Curtis Campher. Who really looks like a sixth bowler, who tries so hard to make himself into your fifth. If he can do that regularly in this tournament, that gives them a seam bowling option in their top six.

That's nice and doesn't include Josh Little. I am still unsure of how good he can be, but he is a fast left-arm bowler who can bowl over and around the wicket. This is still probably a tournament too early for him. But the potential is there. I think a few other teams would enjoy having his talent around.

The problems

I don't know how they can consistently punish teams without Stirling going nuts, or Harry Tector having a huge tournament. Barlbirnie is incredible when in form; when not he's almost a dead weight. Lorcan Tucker is a really handy player, but I am not sure he can blast world-class attacks consistently yet. And their fifth best batter is George Dockrell, who you may remember used to be a bowler.

None of them average over 30 in the last two years and only Dockrell has a 130 plus strike rate. After that, it is players like Delaney, Simi Singh, Campher and Adair. None are terrible with the bat, but they're more cameo players. Steady batting was what built Ireland's success, but not anymore.


The absolute worst case is that they lose to Scotland. I wonder if for some fans they might even take them beating Scotland and getting rolled as a silver lining thing.

They should be decent, though. I think Scotland is still a better team, but I don't think there is much in it, and Ireland should favour themselves versus Zimbabwe. And they have beaten West Indies in a World Cup in Australia before. If they do qualify, I think they will struggle in the next group. I've watched many of their recent matches; there just isn't enough here to win consistently against the top teams.


Last time

They had to struggle through qualifying in 2018, perhaps partly because I was their analyst, but they did much better without me in the tournament (must be a blip, right).

They jumped out of the gate beating Bangladesh, and then defeated Oman and Papa New Guinea. I think it was the easier group, but they were still the only ones to roll like that. The Afghanistan game was a throwaway when they were dismissed by 60, but scoring only 109 against Namibia really hurt them. They kept New Zealand honest but were easily beaten by India and Pakistan. It may not sound like much, but it was the greatest tournament in Scotland history.

The strength

Hitting the ball. It doesn't always come through in the stats, but their power for an associate is amazing. Their new captain, Richie Berrington, clears the offside with incredible regularity. George Munsey can still attack the spinners, but teams plan for him a lot better now. And Michael Leask - a long-term project player for Scotland - has finally started to hit the ball as consistently as he does powerfully.

Their bowling is probably underrated all things considered. Josh Davey has taken wickets almost every time he wears a Scotland shirt. Sharif is turning into a reliable grizzled veteran. Mark Watt is one of the more interesting bowlers in T20. And Hamza Tahir is a really good left-arm orthodox as well, though they struggle to get him and Watt in to the same team. Brad Wheal struggled in the last World Cup but as terrific in the first 100.

The problems

Last two years, they haven't made the runs they did before. The power is still strong, but the thing that made them so good with the bat was a top four you could set your clock to. With Coetzer gone, and MacLeod and Munsey struggling for T20 form, Berrington is the main player. Cross and MacLeod are scoring a strike rate of 88 in the last two years; one of them has to push the nitro button. The bowling is well-balanced, but it's not enough to carry them through this.

I also want to point out Brandon McMullen, not because I know much about him, but mostly because he sounds like a computer game character you would use if your program didn't have the naming rights to use Brendon McCullum.


The absolute worst case is that they lose to Ireland.

They really should get a minimum of a win in the first round, and if they don't, there will be questions asked of a team that made the second round last year.

As for the best case, fans don't expect the second round automatically after last time, but they expect two wins and to be pushing for it. There is no reason they can't qualify again. This team thinks better about T20 than Ireland or Zimbabwe, because this is their main thing. And even the West Indies are vulnerable.