Ireland are no mystery to South Africa

Former Ireland coach Adrian Birrell
Former Ireland coach Adrian Birrell

Any element of mystery that Ireland might still retain against the full-member nations will be all but cancelled out when they meet South Africa in Canberra on Tuesday.

Former Ireland coach Adrian Birrell, who is now an assistant with the Proteas, will help provide the inside information for their first meeting since the last World Cup.

South Africa coasted to a 131-run victory on that day but Birrell knows that Ireland have traded off more fancied teams underestimating them as they have made a habit of pulling off World Cup giant-killings.

Already, Ireland have beaten West Indies at this tournament and are well placed to progress out of their group for the second time in the past three World Cups.

Birrell coached Ireland for five years from 2002 and he believes that their World Cup record should surprise no-one given the developments they have made over the past decade.

“They have a strong culture and play an attractive brand of cricket,” he said.

“They have a number of good players and since probably 2005 a lot of their players are county players playing cricket full-time, they are playing professionally.

“In every World Cup they seem to beat a full-member team. They did that in 2007 when they beat Pakistan and Bangladesh and tied with Zimbabwe.

“There is the famous win at the 2011 World Cup against England and they have already beaten the West Indies here, it’s very realistic.

“We are taking them seriously, they are a good team.”

Birrell pin-pointed Ireland’s batting as their strength - especially their ability to chase after they ran down scores of 304 and 278 to beat West Indies and the United Arab Emirates respectively at this tournament.

“They bat long and deep,” he said.

“They know how to chase targets; four out of the top 10 World Cup chases are Ireland chases, three of them over 300 and two against full members.”

That record is now four of 11, following Sri Lanka’s winning total of 312 for one against England on Sunday, but Birrell added: “We are fully aware of what they can do, I am probably more aware than most. We will be prepared come Tuesday.”

Ireland are one of only three unbeaten teams at the World Cup - alongside India and New Zealand - but will be underdogs against South Africa after they pulverised the Windies by 257 runs last time out on the back of AB de Villiers’ supreme unbeaten 162 from 66 balls.

The Proteas do have a couple of injury concerns, however, with JP Duminy (strain) and Vernon Philander (hamstring) both doubtful after they missed the Windies match last Friday.