Jon Coates (Irish Daily Mail)
LEADING figures in Irish cricket have played down fears that the final of next month's World Twenty20 Qualifier in Belfast could be ruined by a perception that second prize is more attractive than first.
The privilege of facing England in the opening match at Lord's will now go to the runners-up at Stormont, rather than the winners, after Zimbabwe's expulsion from the finals in England next summer opened up a third berth for associate nations.
The top-ranked qualifying team will now assume Zimbabwe's place in Group A beside India and Bangladesh, which, to the relief of organisers, will be seen as a marginally easier proposition than England and Pakistan, who await the runners-up in Group B. But the lure of Lord's will surely play on a few minds in the final.
Ireland captain William Porterfield, who has promised to play in all the Stormont fixtures and all but one game (v Norway) of next week's European Championships in Dublin, said: 'We will go into every game trying to win it, as we always do.
'Playing England at Lord's would be a dream come true but the first priority will be to get one of three qualification places. If we do that, the next target will be to win the tournament.'
Warren Deutrom, chief executive of Cricket Ireland, said: 'The ICC has to look after the integrity of the competition rather than considering the value in marketing terms of one particular outcome. 'I am quite sure that no team would throw the final.'
A third-place play-off will now take place after the semi-finals on August 4, with the final going ahead at 1pm the following day.
There is now no contingency for replays, and the ICC has yet to announce the conditions that will determine who qualifies in case of rain.