Now it gets serious. After two warm-up games against an Oman Development XI, Ireland play their first competitive match of the year tomorrow (9.45am GMT) against the senior Oman side, the opening match of a Twenty20 Quadrangular tournament in Al Amarat.

Scotland and Netherlands, who Paul Stirling's side play on Friday and Sunday respectively, are the other teams involved this week and all three opponents are ranked higher than Ireland in the shortest format.

The warm-up games, lost by four wickets and two wickets, underline not just the size of the task facing Ireland in the next week but also just how far the side has plummeted in recent years in Twenty20 cricket.

In November 2013, Ireland, under Trent Johnston's leadership, won the World Twenty20 qualifying tournament and were kings of the Associate world in all three formats. Victory in the final against Afghanistan sent them to Bangladesh for the finals and Ireland's decline in T20 cricket can be traced back to the third match in Sylhet against Netherlands.

Having scored 189-4, Ireland's place in the second stage of the World Twenty20 was all but assured. The only way they could not join the world's best in the second stage was if the Dutch reached their target of 190 inside 14.2 overs - a run rate of 13.29 an over.

But that's exactly what happened on March 21, 2014, the Dutch charging home with three balls to spare and a shattered Ireland team, already planning for another two weeks' cricket, were instead on their way home.
Since then, Ireland have played 34 T20 games and won just 11, not one against an ICC Full Member. And only one of those victories has been in their last 12 games.

The most high-profile casualty has been Test and one-day captain William Porterfield, who was left out of the T20 squad after averaging 15 in his five T20 internationals last summer.

The captaincy was handed to Gary Wilson, but the former Surrey and Derbyshire county professional is missing this week's tournament and the upcoming series against Afghanistan in India with an eye problem so the baton has been passed on to Stirling, the best and most experienced T20 Ireland player.

His 78 from 48 balls in the second warm-up game in Oman has been the only innings of note - the next top score was 26 not out in the first game by George Dockrell, batting at No.8, after Ireland subsided to 45-6.
Twenty20 is a batsman's game, with the bowlers invariably on a hiding to nothing, but even with a total of 170 to defend on Sunday, the bowlers could not show enough control or discipline.

The next T20 World Cup qualifying tournament is in October but the next six games in the space of 12 days will give a good indication if Ireland have any chance of going to Australia in 2020.