It’s back to first-class business for Ireland in the ICC Intercontinental Cup
Holders and two-time champions are off the back of qualification for ICC World Twenty20 2009; key game to maintain push for ICC Intercontinental Cup final
Canada looks for consolation from failure in ICC WT20 Q, aiming to end disappointing first-class campaign on a high
After the excitement of qualifying for the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in England next year, it's back to the business of first-class cricket for Ireland on Thursday - with the small matter of trying to maintain its push for a hat-trick of ICC Intercontinental Cup titles.
With the top of the table tight and four sides vying for two final places, a win for the Irish is a must - and Kyle McCallan's side needs to achieve that against Canada, the team it beat in the 2007 final.
It's been almost 15 months since that encounter at Grace Road, Leicester in the UK and plenty has changed in that time. Both teams have new captains and Canada has been unable to maintain the form it showed to reach the final on that occasion.
One win in six matches tells its own story as the North American side has struggled to replace the runs of Ashish Bagai - playing just once because of work commitments - and the penetration with the ball of Umar Bhatti.
Last year left-armer Bhatti and Henry Osinde formed perhaps the best new-ball attack in the Associate world but in this campaign Bhatti has played only half the matches and although Osinde has captured 15 wickets in five matches, those wickets have come at almost 34 runs apiece.
Canada's other problem has been its turnover of players. For one reason or another it has been unable to pick a settled side. 29 players used in six matches and only one player, Sunil Dhaniram, playing in every game tells its own story.
Dhaniram has been one of the few rays of light for Canada with 472 runs at 59.00 and 17 wickets at 25.17 with his left-arm spin.
All those facts and figures must give Ireland the belief that it can win this match with a full haul of 20 points. And if it can do that, depending on the result of the Scotland - Kenya match, it could go to the top of the table.
That would mean it overtaking long-time leaders Namibia and with Ireland's other two remaining matches against that side and another one of its rivals for a final spot, Kenya, it is clear that Ireland's destiny is very much in its own hands.
Former captain Trent Johnston, the last man to lift the ICC Intercontinental Cup, lines up but Ireland is without county cricketers Eoin Morgan and Niall O'Brien.
Morgan (Middlesex) missed the European Championships with a knee injury and also sat out the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier while wicketkeeper-batsman Niall O'Brien heads back to Northamptonshire after the Belfast tournament.
Gary Wilson, who is on the books of Surrey will, however, play and will keep wicket in place of Niall O'Brien.
The umpires for the match are Charlie McElwee and Sarika Prasad.
Ireland (from): Kyle McCallan (captain), Andre Botha, Peter Connell, Alex Cusack, Thinus Fourie, Trent Johnston, Kevin O'Brien, Andrew Poynter, Paul Stirling, Reinhardt Strydom, Greg Thompson, Andrew White, Gary Wilson.
Canada (from): Sanjay Thuraisingam (captain), Rustam Bhatti, Geoffrey Barnett, Harvir Baidwan, Eion Katchay, Sunil Dhaniram, Zubin Surkari, Karun Jethi, Steven Welsh, Qaiser Ali, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Mohammad Iqbal, Arvind Kandappah, Saad bin Zafar.
ICC Intercontinental Cup form guide
Drew with Scotland, Belfast, August 2007 (Ireland secured first innings points)
Beat Bermuda by innings and 146 runs, Dublin, August 2007
Beat the UAE by nine wickets, Abu Dhabi, March 2008
Beat the Netherlands by an innings and 67 runs, Rotterdam, July 2008
Lost to Netherlands by 54 runs, Toronto, June/July 2007
Beat the UAE by innings and 228 runs, Toronto, July 2007
Lost to Kenya by nine wickets, Nairobi, October 2007
Lost to Namibia by eight wickets, Windhoek, October 2007
Lost to Bermuda by 106 runs, Ontario, July 2008
Lost to Scotland by innings and 165 runs, Ontario, July 2008
Current and upcoming matches:
7 - 10 August, Scotland v Kenya, Glasgow
7 - 10 July - Ireland v Canada, Malahide
The ICC Intercontinental Cup has quickly grown in stature and profile since its inception four years ago and now the ICC's premier first-class tournament is an integral part of the Associate Members' cricket schedule.
Having previously been designed around a two-group, three-day format, the event has evolved into an eight-team, round-robin and truly global tournament featuring four-day cricket which gives those teams who do not play Test cricket the chance to experience the longer form of the game.
Scotland won the first ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004, beating Canada in the final, while Ireland has been victorious in both events since then, beating Kenya in the 2005 decider and Canada in the 2006-07 event.
The final of the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2007-08 will take place in November 2008 at a venue yet to be confirmed.
For more information, including coverage of this match, go to: www.icc-cricket.com