Kevin O'Brien happy as Ireland back on world stage
Kevin O'Brien (Irish Mail on Sunday)
There's nothing to beat the build-up to a big tournament and with three wins out of three this one is better than most. We're usually quite slow starters but for this World Twenty20 we have hit the ground running.
We've been in Sri Lanka now for the best part of two weeks so we are well acclimatised and used to the heat and extreme humidity and you saw from the performance in our first official warm-up game against Zimbabwe, that we are here to win games. The tournament proper starts on Wednesday. with the game against Australia, and we're almost ready.
It's been steady improvement but there are still a few things we have to step up into second and third gear now.
It took a couple of days to get the flight out of our system but since then it's been pretty hectic. We have had a couple of double sessions but usually it's training morning or afternoon. Everybody has been getting something out of training and with (former Australia quick bowler) Craig McDermott on board the bowlers have been learning from him and the batters are in form under Simmo's (coach Phil Simmons') guidance.
Billy (The Kid, McDermott's nickname since he came into the Australia team at the age of 19) has tweeked my grip slightly and it's something I will be working on over the winter. But you don't want to be going into a tournament with doubts in your minds so I'll just go back to the way I was holding it for the next couple of weeks.
Our first match here was against the Singhalese Sports Club, they are a first class team and had three or four players who played for Sri Lanka not so long ago so it was a good win, a good run-out for the lads. (Nigel) Jones took three wickets and Cusi (Alex Cusack) got 73 chasing 158.
We played Sri Lanka the following day which was a tough ask, but once you get out on the field you just have to gee yourself up and get the job done. Boyd (Rankin) came in and had a great spell of bowling, so did TJ (Trent Johnston). We restricted them to 104, (Ed) Joyce scored 50 not out in his first game to see us home with five and a half overs to spare. So it was pretty clinical.
Thursday game against Zimbabwe, when we scored 181 for five and then kept them to 127 for eight, was a marked improvement again but fielding is still not where we want it to be. It's good we are winning but haven't peaked yet, with still a few days to go before the Australia game. So it's all looking good.
I'm happy with my own form. The work's been done by the top four and it makes it easier when you come in and the scoreboard is pretty healthy and you can play your shots. My role is to get used to the wicket as quickly as I can and then hit boundaries. It's a pretty simple game plan. We were in a great position when I came in on Thursday at 120 for four with five overs to go (and scored 30 not out from 15 balls) so that's a great platform to have for a No 6.
On Monday it's Bangladesh, our last warm-up match. They will come at us with a completely different attack to Zimbabwe, four or five spinners, as we saw in Belfast. It will be a good test for us to see how far we have come since those games in July. We just have to go out and back ourselves which we have done for the last eight or nine months.
Everyone knows each other's game inside out so you have to have the confidence to try something you have been practising for a long time. If you commit 100 per cent to a yorker, for example, get it wrong and it goes for a six, then that's the inches you talk about in Twenty20 cricket. But it's also about having fun and we're certainly having fun as well.
Before that game we had the ICC awards ceremony on Saturday. We have dominated the initial selection for the last few years and we normally have six or seven guys in the long list so it's a great achievement for us and for Irish cricket to have four out of five in the shortlist (O'Brien has been nominated along with Paul Stirling, George Dockrell and Joyce) and hopefully we can come away with the victory. I'll be very surprised if Stirlo doesn't win it with four hundreds in the year.
As for the main event, a lot of the groups are going to be tight and ours could be as close as any. It could come down to run-rate, with each team (West Indies are also in Ireland's group) winning one game. That's how close it could be. The teams are quite evenly matched.
Australia haven't been going well in Twenty20 cricket recently but they still have world class players in (David) Warner and (Shane) Watson. Mitchell Starc had a great Twenty20 with Yorkshire and almost single-handedly got them to Finals Day. He is obviously a dangerous bowler. They have a lot of talent and it's going to be a difficult game.
But it will be a difficult game for them as well. We are going in with a lot of confidence, we are playing well and the guys are really up for it. I think it's going to be quite enjoyable playing the Aussies and hopefully we will have a few surprises.