THE weather remains the favourite to be the winner at Stormont tomorrow when Ireland are due to face West Indies in their final one-day international of the season (10.15am start) but, if not, the hosts will need a huge improvement in form, individually and collectively, if they are to end a barren run of results.

It is eight games and counting since they experienced the winning feeling, against Afghanistan back in March, and with only two of the squad playing county cricket in the last month, and Ireland being held to a draw by the Netherlands in their first game as a Full Member, captain William Porterfield accepts it will be another difficult game.

“We have played well in patches in the last few games but that is not enough to win games of cricket,” he said, as the rain poured down outside. “We have a young attack which is still learning and we have to give those lads backing, while the batting has to fire and put runs on the board.

“Most of the ODI defeats in the last couple of years have been against higher ranked teams, but on paper the West Indies are closer to us and we could be playing them in the World Cup qualifiers in March, so this is our chance to lay down a marker.”

It is almost certain that Ireland will be playing the West Indies in the qualifiers because even if they win tomorrow’s game they would still have to win four of the five upcoming ODIs against England to overtake Sri Lanka, currently in eighth place and in the last of the automatic qualifying spots for the finals in England in 2019.

It is a much-changed Windies squad from the Test series just completed in England with only six players staying on for the white-ball action, but boosted by the return of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels after two years in the wilderness.

“Quite a few of them have been playing in the CPL (Caribbean Premier League) so there is plenty of footage on them, but it’s a mixture of youth and experience,” added Porterfield.

“Gayle and Samuels’ records speak for themselves and they will be hoping to come back with a bang and with a point to prove which could make things difficult, but we will be looking to make things difficult for them.”

George Dockrell could be Ireland’s most potent weapon, not just with the ball but also with the bat, as he added yet another 50 to his prolific run scoring in club cricket this season in Sunday’s inter-provincial as well as taking three Northern Knights wickets in just five overs.

“I saw the back end of the game, it wasn’t the easiest of conditions to play in but he can also be a solid No.8 for us and hopefully he will kick on,” said his skipper, who has lost his county contract at Warwickshire and must return to club cricket next season.

“It always had that potential because of the new ECB rules and regs (since Ireland became a Full Member),” explained Porterfield. “We are not allowed to play even as non-English qualified locals and we can’t move counties so it puts a huge restriction on us.

“It means my county cricket career has finished unless the ECB changes its qualification rules or someone takes up the employment rules and regs, as we are British citizens living in England.

“The club cricket situation is still up in the air but I will be playing for the North West Warriors, come what may.”
It will be the skipper’s first game in 26 days — not ideal preparation — but Porterfield is confident it won’t affect his performance.

“I had the same sort of break before the Dutch game and was in good enough touch (he scored 60 and 108) so hope to do well again on Wednesday,” he added.