Irish skipper Andrew Balbirnie is in upbeat mood ahead of a crucial month for his team.

The Boys In Green face hosts UAE in a four-game series starting next Friday (Jan 8), before taking on familiar foes Afghanistan in the World Cup Super League.

(Andrew Balbirnie)

While the Irish have an abysmal record against the Afghans in T20 cricket, the contests have been much closer in the 50-over ODI format, with the Irish winning 2-1 the last time the sides met in the UAE, back in Sharjah in 2017.

In total the teams have met 27 times in ODI's, with the record standing at 13 wins apiece with one no-result.

“The UAE is a nice place to tour, and I think the last time we played Afghanistan here in ODIs we beat them," said Balbirnie

"We can draw a lot of confidence from that, as there are guys here that were involved in that series.

“I think we have a good chance, we're going to go out and try win all three games in that series - that's the aim we have for any series in this World Cup Super League. But to do that here, we need to play good cricket, and that will need to start with the four-match series against the UAE.”

It's a young looking squad with experienced duo Boyd Rankin and William Porterfield deemed surplus to requirements, while Gary Wilson is on paternity leave.

“I was asked about my ‘building a team’, but I don’t feel that’s exactly what we are doing. As players, we've all got to make sure we're putting in performances that warrant us playing for Ireland.

"The guys coming into the squad for the first time are aware of that - but it's a good environment to be in at the moment. Saying that, it'll only remain a good environment if players are putting in good performances and we're winning games. That's what it comes down to in the end.” 

Afghanistan will be a major challenge for Ireland with their battery of spinners including Rashid Khan, Mujeeb-Ur-Rehman and Mohammed Nabi all high in the ICC rankings.

“There's no doubt that their spinners are a big threat - they have been ever since they burst onto the scene. But the beauty of playing Afghanistan quite regularly is that you get used to their spinners and understand better how to play them and score off them.

"They'll still be a threat in these conditions but I feel that we have the skillset in our batting line-up to counteract that.

“I think it will come down down to who turns up on each game day - and hopefully, by the end, we'll come away with more league points than them.”

Ireland will play a warm-up match on Monday against a UAE XI, which will be their first action in over five months since beating England in the final ODI at Southampton thanks to centuries from Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie.

Ireland have played the UAE six times in ODI's, winning all six, including the 2015 World Cup Group match by two wickets in Brisbane.

(Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie)