Ireland to host Twenty20 Qualifier?
IRELAND are in line to host another major international tournament next summer, the qualifiers for the second Twenty20 World Championship in England in 2009.
The six ICC High Performance countries - the Associate nations at this year's World Cup finals in the Caribbean - have been meeting in Dubai this week and on the agenda is the tournament to decide which two qualifiers join the 10 ICC Full members at the next Twenty20 World Championships.
Following the success of the inaugural event in South Africa last September, the follow-up promises to be even better and more high-profile. Ireland missed out on a finals place to Scotland and Kenya this year when they lost four of their five games at the World League in Nairobi.
Next time, however, instead of qualifying for a Twenty20 event from a 50-overs tournament, the ICC's Development Committee have recommended a qualifier using the same rules to ensure the best associates in the shortest form of the game progress to the profitable finals. Scotland and Kenya both received $250,000 just for qualifying and the Scots played only one match in South Africa because of rain.
Although the Netherlands are interested in hosting the next qualifying tournament, Ireland, who are represented in Dubai by ICU chief executive Warren Deutrom, are favourites to host the event in the first week of August.
With the European Championships already confirmed for Dublin the previous week, the Twenty20 event would take place in Belfast with Stormont, which successfully hosted seven ODIs last summer including the tri-series between India and South Africa, offering facilities much superior to anything the Dutch could provide.
The only knock-on effect to the tournament taking place at the beginning of August would be that Ireland's Inter-Continental Cup clash against Canada may have to be moved back a few days, although as Canada will be one of the six countries here for the Twenty20 tournament - Scotland, Kenya, Bermuda and the Dutch are the others - it would not be a huge inconvenience, especially with such a lucrative prize at stake.
And the back-to-back tournaments in the calendar should also help Deutrom persuade Scotland and the Netherlands - and Canada - to stay in the same country.
The draw for the group stages of the Twenty20 finals has already taken place and the winners of the qualifying tournament would be in the same section as Pakistan and the hosts, an Ireland victory giving them the chance to face England on their home soil for the first time ever.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, have offered Ireland two four-day games, two three-day games and three ODIs in March/April next year.
A finalised itinerary, with exact dates and venues for a tour which would be invaluable pre-season preparation for Ireland's hectic summer schedule, is expected to be confirmed next week.
The Tigers are immediately above Ireland in the official ODI rankings and even one win for Trent Johnston's side in a three-match series - a repeat of their World Cup success in Barbados - would improve their points tally.