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Cricket World Cup: Boyd Rankin revved up for Irish bid

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
Dates: 19 February-2 April Venues: India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh
Coverage: Highlights on BBC TV (see listings), Red Button & BBC Sport website at 2200 GMT every day (UK users only); Live Test Match Special commentary (BBC 5 live sports extra, BBC Sport website, some games also on BBC Radio 4 LW) and live text commentary on all England matches and selected other major games; Also live on Sky Sports.

Boyd Rankin celebrates after taking a West Indian wicket in the 2010 World Twenty20
Rankin celebrates taking a West Indian wicket in the 2010 World Twenty20

By Alvin McCaig

It is four years since Irish cricket knocked the big beasts of football, rugby and GAA off the back page for the guts of a month.

The stunning St Patrick's Day victory over Pakistan was the highlight of a magical first World Cup in the West Indies.

Adrian Birrell's emerging Irish team fulfilled their potential at the top table, cementing their place as top Associate nation and sparking the first whispers of making the ultimate step to Test level.

Ireland have built on their 2007 breakthrough and cricket has moved up the pecking order in Irish sport.

Warwickshire paceman Boyd Rankin was a key figure in the Caribbean and he will again spearhead the Irish attack when they start their World Cup campaign against hosts Bangladesh in Dhaka on 25 February.

England, India, the Netherlands, South Africa and the West Indies complete Group B.

Ireland may have lost the element of surprise but Rankin is confident that the team will again make an impact in the tournament.

"There is definitely much more expectation than four years ago," said Rankin.

"But we have played really good cricket since the last World Cup and have pushed some of the top teams including England and Australia.

"Our first target is making the quarter-finals and we feel we are capable of beating any of the sides in our group.

"We should not fear any team - if we play anywhere near what we can it should be a good tournament for us."

Rankin points to the strength of the current squad, with 13 of the 15 now playing full-time cricket compared to a sprinkling of professionals four years ago.

Irish coach Phil Simmons has given youth a chance and big-hitting Middlesex batsman Paul Stirling and Somerset's 18-year-old spinner George Dockrell are poised for their first taste of World Cup action.

I can't wait for it to start and I am the strongest and fittest I have ever been in my career

Boyd Rankin

There are two notable differences from 2007 - Eoin Morgan switching from Ireland to England and Ed Joyce's recent move in the opposite direction.

Rankin may just mention a certain incident from the last World Cup when he spends a few minutes with new team-mate Joyce.

The 6ft 8ins seamer clean bowled the Sussex stroke-maker with his first ball when Ireland and England clashed in the Super Eights.

"It was a great moment for me and we were glad to see the back of him as he is an excellent player," added Rankin.

"Ed has vast experience at county and international level and he not only strengthens our batting but his presence increases the confidence of the whole team.

"This squad is much stronger than in 2007, with four years more experience and the big increase in full-time Irish cricketers.

"We also have a couple of top-notch young players in George Dockrell and Paul Stirling, who possess both the talent and temperament to succeed at this level.

"George impressed at the Twenty20 World Cup last year while Paul is one of the best young cricketers I have seen coming through for Ireland."

Joyce and England captain Michael Vaughan were among Rankin's nine victims four years ago.

Paul Stirling is set to make his World Cup debut against Bangladesh
Paul Stirling is set to make his World Cup debut against Bangladesh

The 26-year-old has fully recovered from a stress fracture to his right foot and he met up with the rest of the Irish squad after getting a few tips from Australian great Dennis Lillee at the ECB's winter training programme in Chennai.

A good showing at the World Cup is vital for the Irish to strengthen their claims for Test status, an ambition driven by Cricket Ireland's progressive chief executive Warren Deutrom.

Six players were given full-time contracts by Cricket Ireland last year and Deutrom will hope to see a return for this investment in the next month.

Test status may be the long-term goal but for Rankin and his team the focus is firmly on their opener against Bangladeshi, a team they defeated at the Super Eights stage in 2007.

"The first game is so important for us and if we win it gives us a great platform for the rest of the tournament," said Rankin.

"I can't wait for it to start and I am the strongest and fittest I have ever been in my career.

"It would be great to play Test cricket for Ireland so we have to keep showing that we deserve to play at that level.

"To do well we have to be as relaxed as possible and, like four years ago, enjoy the experience."

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

Group B - Ireland fixtures

25 Feb: v Bangladesh (Mirpur)

2 Mar: v England (Bangalore)

6 Mar: v India (Bangalore)

11 Mar: v West Indies (Mohali)

15 Mar: v South Africa (Kolkata)

18 Mar: v Netherlands (Kolkata)

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see also
World Cup guide: Ireland
14 Feb 11 |  Ireland
Andrew White column
16 Feb 11 |  Ireland
Ireland beat Zimbabwe in warm-up
15 Feb 11 |  Ireland
Joyce ready for Irish challenge
11 Feb 11 |  Ireland
Ireland skipper upbeat for Cup
10 Feb 11 |  Ireland
Ireland lose to Kenya in warm-up
08 Feb 11 |  Ireland
West left out of Irish cup squad
19 Jan 11 |  Ireland
Wilson targets quarter-final spot
19 Jan 11 |  Surrey
Do Ireland pass the Test?
09 Jun 10 |  Ireland
Irish claim second World Cup win
15 Apr 07 |  Cricket
Unconvincing England beat Ireland
30 Mar 07 |  Cricket
Ireland shock sends Pakistan home
17 Mar 07 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2011 squads
19 Jan 11 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2011
09 Mar 11 |  Cricket

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