TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
HOW good are Ireland? We’ll find out on Sunday when they play SA in a one-day international in Benoni.
But, for now, the answer to that question has to be: not very.
Ireland have won 47 of their 108 ODIs, which makes them – in terms of winning percentage – a more successful team than New Zealand or Zimbabwe.
But, of their 53 games in the format against teams from test-playing countries, they have won only eight.
And five of those successes have been achieved against relative minnows Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
Australia, India, New Zealand, SA and Sri Lanka have never been beaten by the Irish, who have played them in 13 ODIs.
Their record against SA is played four, lost four.
That trend will be difficult to buck on Sunday, not least because Ed Joyce, who has scored five of the 23 ODI centuries made by Irish batsmen, has been ruled out with a knee condition that requires surgery.
But William Porterfield, Paul Stirling, Gary Wilson and the talismanic Kevin O’Brien, who account for 15 hundreds between them, are in the squad.
O’Brien, famous for the 113 he smashed off 63 balls to help Ireland beat England in the 2011 World Cup, is his team’s all-time leading wicket-taker with 88 scalps.
George Dockrell and Stirling are the other members of the squad who are among the top 10 Irish wicket-takers.
Not that any of those names will strike fear into the hearts of SA’s easily superior batting and bowling units.
Logic and Irishness don’t always sit comfortably, however.
They have a knack for winning when least expected to, a tendency first seen at the 2007 World Cup – when they put Pakistan out of the tournament and beat Bangladesh.
Their stunning victory over England four years later was followed, at the 2015 World Cup, by a win against Zimbabwe.
Benoni is a long way from the biggest stage in world cricket, so there will be little in terms of atmosphere and occasion to get the Irish fighting.
But they always have a point to prove – that they shouldn’t be removed from the World Cup by the suits, that they deserve test status, that they can progress despite receiving only a third of the funding given Zimbabwe.
And that makes them dangerous, nevermind who they play against, where they play them, and what’s at stake.