Ireland's chance to make big statement
March 10, 2015
Start time 1400 local (0100 GMT)
Defying all pre-tournament predictions, India are cruising the calmest sea towards top spot in Group B - another win will make it official - while below the glassy surface there's a bait-ball feeding frenzy to determine the identity and order of the other three quarter-finalists.
India's opponents on Tuesday, Ireland, have done the most to shake up the system and ensure the more fancied Full Members do not have easy progression into the knockouts. They have already scalped West Indies and Zimbabwe, and if Ireland win either of their remaining games - against India or Pakistan - it will mean the men from the Caribbean cannot catch them.
After the victory against West Indies, Ireland batsman Niall O'Brien had spoken of playing with a no-fear approach, and before the win against Zimbabwe their captain William Porterfield stated plainly that his team was looking for two points from every game. Ireland will need both those attitudes against India because of their circumstance: only points matter, margins of victory and defeat - and their impact on net run-rate - do not.
Unless Ireland win both their remaining games, South Africa are certain to finish second in the group, leaving Pakistan and West Indies as their closest competitors. Ireland's net run-rate is the worst of the three, and two more defeats will worsen it. Only victory will do; they need one out of two.
India WWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
The India fixture could be Ireland's only game in the World Cup against a member of cricket's Big Three alliance. It is an opportunity to make a statement on behalf of all Associate nations because if the Big Three wished the 2019 tournament to be more inclusive than it is likely to be, who would argue against it? And though MS Dhoni spoke in favour of giving Associates opportunities to develop, he said India - given their busy schedule - did not have time to play them. So Ireland have to take this chance; most of their present players may be retired by the time the next one comes.
There are few holes in India's clinical campaign so far but one area that has been wanting is their opening partnership, which produced 34, 9 and 11 against Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies, and only 29 against UAE. Rohit Sharma has had three failures in four innings, while Shikhar Dhawan has 14 and 9 in his last two innings after beginning the World Cup with a half-century and a hundred. Ireland's pace attack is their weakest link and gives India their best shot at a large opening stand ahead of the knockouts.
India appear to have no fitness issues and could field an unchanged team. After the game against West Indies in Perth, MS Dhoni had said "let the bench strength warm the bench," when asked if India would be making changes to a winning combination.
India (probable): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni(capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Mohammed Shami, 10 Mohit Sharma, 11 Umesh Yadav
Ireland arrived in Hamilton from Hobart only late on Sunday night and practiced in the afternoon at Seddon Park. They hadn't decided on their XI, but given the small dimensions of the ground and seam-bowling being their weakest suit, they could just pick their most in-form bowlers, which would include Andy McBrine as the second spinner.
Ireland (probable): 1 William Porterfield (capt), 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Ed Joyce, 4 Andy Balbirnie, 5 Kevin O'Brien, 6 Gary Wilson (wk), 7 Niall O'Brien, 8 John Mooney, 9 George Dockrell, 10 Alex Cusack, 11 Andy McBrine
Pitch and conditions
Hamilton was overcast and humid on the eve of the match but the forecast for Tuesday is clearer. The temperature for the duration of the game is expected to be around 25C at the start and 17C at the finish. Overcast conditions are not really an indication of whether the ball will swing in New Zealand, because Wellington and Auckland were clear and sunny when Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Mitchell Starc hooped it around corners.
Seddon Park's boundaries are uniformly small and the previous World Cup game at this venue was a high-scoring one: South Africa made 339 and Zimbabwe responded with 277.
Stats and trivia
Ravindra Jadeja is India's most expensive bowler in this World Cup, and he has an economy rate of 4.51. No other team has an attack with all bowlers conceding fewer than five runs an over.
India have played only two ODIs against Ireland. They won by nine wickets in Belfast in 2007 and by five in Bangalore during the 2011 World Cup.
Ireland seamers Kevin O'Brien (9.60) and Max Sorensen (8.33) have the worst economy rates for bowlers who have bowled more than 10 overs in this World Cup.
"It does make a difference and have a small effect on your mindset, you have to change your line a little, but we are not going to fret much about it, whatever is there is there, it is the same for both the teams."
India seamer Mohit Sharma on adjusting to New Zealand's smaller grounds after playing in Australia so far.
"Been a pretty good mood in the camp throughout and obviously winning helps. Being three from four is a nice position to be in. Like any other game we'll be looking for a win and to make it four from five tomorrow."
Ireland captain William Porterfield.