Ireland FlagIreland
Current ranking1 (ICC) 1 (CricketEurope)
ODI record since 2007 World Cup Played 16, Won 6, Lost 8, NR 2
Group phase schedule 1 April: Scotland, Willowmoore Park
2 April: Oman, Stan Friedman Oval
4 April: Uganda, Stan Friedman Oval
6 April: Canada, Willowmoore Park
8 April: Namibia, WITS University
Key playersAndré Botha, Eoin Morgan, Niall O'Brien, Kyle McCallan
Wise Old HeadTrent Johnston
Emerging playersGary Wilson, Andrew Poynter
CoachPhil Simmons
PreparationSouth Africa (Benoni)

Ireland, whose exploits at the 2007 World Cup give them a special place in the annals of Associates cricket, will go into the qualifying event for 2011 clear favourites, not only to secure one of the four available places but to go one better than last time by winning the tournament.

Ireland's only defeat by a fellow-Associate since the World Cup was to Scotland at Mannofield last year, but that was a below-strength side, and the present squad will be determined to confirm their position as top dogs outside the circle of Test cricket.

Ireland team (photo courtesy of ICC)With all but a very few of the 2007 squad likely to make the trip to South Africa, the Irish will certainly not be short of big match experience, and it will be a huge advantage to them that they will - for once - have all their English county players available.

William Porterfield has, of course, taken over the captaincy from Trent Johnston, but the Australian-born allrounder's presence in the team remains an important factor, both in the lower middle order and as a seam bowler alongside Peter Connell, Boyd Rankin, André Botha and Kevin O'Brien.

Add to that the spin of Kyle McCallan and Regan West, and Ireland have a varied attack likely to trouble most of the sides they will encounter.

Middlesex and England Lions lefthander Eion Morgan seems certain to be one of the batsmen to watch in this tournament, and Ireland will need him to do well in the big games. With many tipping him as a future England player, this may be his last major competition in Irish colours, at least for some time.

Both Niall O'Brien and his wicketkeeping deputy Gary Wilson have opened with Porterfield in recent matches, and they may well form the top three, followed by Morgan, Botha and Andrew White.

The clash with traditional rivals Scotland in the opening round of Group A should get the competition off to a great start, and the winners will have taken a huge step towards the Super Eights.

With Canada and Namibia to face in their final two games, Ireland will know that they cannot afford to slip up here, since later in the tournament every point - and even, perhaps, every run - is likely to be crucial in the battle for one of the four World Cup places.