The West Indies and Ireland meet in an one-off one-day international after a fascinating Twenty20 series, which saw the associates match the reigning world champions in their own back yard.
Venue: Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica
Commences: Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014
Start time: 1:30 p.m. GMT (9.30 a.m. local)
Weather: The Weather Channel is forecasting a hot and partly cloudy day, with the temperature expected to reach 31 degrees Celsius (87 degrees Fahrenheit) in the middle of the afternoon. There should be a bit of a breeze, though, not on the same level as the wind during the T20s.
Cricket in Ireland has plenty to celebrate. Their position as the strongest associate nation of the ICC was underlined by the 1-1 draw in the T20 series. The West Indies may be inconsistent, but they fielded a strong lineup for the two matches and escaped with a win in the second game by the skin of their teeth. With the defence of their World T20 title coming up next month in Bangladesh, this was well below par.
In theory, a longer contest should give more opportunity for the cream to rise to the top, but it is not simply a platitude to say that Ireland will fight the West Indies every inch of the way.
The slow, low pitch at Sabina Park looked like a leveller in the T20s, and it could prove to be so once more.
When you have such a wicket to bat on, you need explosive batsmen who can take it out of the equation, but the West Indies have lost opener Chris Gayle to a back problem, according to the WICB (h/t ESPNCricInfo). That could also tip the scales a little further back the way of the men in green. That said, Dwayne Smith on his day is no less violent a striker of a cricket ball.
One side who should be watching carefully are England, who have just arrived in the Caribbean ahead of their own series with the Windies. They will need to learn lessons about the pitches quickly—Ireland had tune-ups against the individual Caribbean nations, and despite losing them, they took the lessons into the main event.
A victory on Sunday would underline Ireland's continued rise and hopefully encourage other Test-playing nations to afford them more opportunities to play them.
West Indies: DJ Bravo*, DM Bravo, ML Cummins, KA Edwards, JO Holder, NO Miller, SP Narine, KOA Powell, D Ramdin†, DJG Sammy, MN Samuels, LMP Simmons, DR Smith
Ireland: AR Cusack, GH Dockrell, EC Joyce, AR McBrine, TJ Murtagh, KJ O'Brien, NJ O'Brien, WTS Porterfield*, AD Poynter, JNK Shannon, MC Sorensen, PR Stirling, SR Thompson, GC Wilson†, CA Young
Players to Watch
Sunil Narine's limited-overs records are excellent, and in an era in which Caribbean pitches have been dulled and become conducive to spin, he is the man for the occasion.
Narine returned figures of 2-28 across the eight overs he bowled in the T20 series. He gave precious little away, and Ireland will be wary of taking him on.
If they do, however—and do so with some success—the reverberations are likely to be felt across the rest of the West Indies bowling attack.
An Ireland victory would almost certainly depend on a cohesive team performance, but batting is likely to prove tougher than bowling. For that reason, Ireland will depend on the man who can bat longest and strongest, Ed Joyce.
Joyce is fresh off his 100th appearance for Ireland, and he brings an enviable amount of experience and class to the team. If others can bat around him, especially in the middle order to accelerate the run rate, Ireland will have a chance.
The game is on a knife-edge, and much will depend on who bats first. Ireland will feel more comfortable chasing a score than setting one, especially if they can restrict their hosts in the field first and then make a measured approach pursuing a low total.
If the West Indies show their class—and despite the all-too-frequent lows, there are still some dazzling highs—they will overpower Ireland. But that's not been guaranteed for a generation now.
Squads and stats via ESPNCricInfo.