World Cup Qualifier: Ireland face Zimbabwe in vital contest

Kevin O'Brien attempts to run out Sean Williams in the 2015 World Cup game in Tasmania
Ireland beat Zimbabwe by five runs at the 2015 World Cup
ICC World Cup Qualifier, Zimbabwe: Ireland v Zimbabwe
Venue: Harare Sports Club, Harare Date: Friday, 16 March Start: 07:30 GMT
Coverage: Live scorecard and report on BBC Sport website.

Ireland face hosts Zimbabwe on Friday in their vital Super Six opener at the World Cup qualifier.

Afghanistan's surprise victory over West Indies on Thursday means five teams remain in contention for the two World Cup qualifying spots.

Victories against Zimbabwe, Scotland and Afghanistan will seal Ireland's place at next year's tournament.

However, defeat on Friday in Harare will mean that two closing wins may not secure Irish qualification.

After a dramatic tie with the hosts on Monday, Scotland maintained their strong challenge for World Cup qualification by beating out-of-contention United Arab Emirates by 73 runs on Thursday.

Gary Wilson may be available again for Ireland after returning home for a number of days for the birth of his first child.

Simi Singh replaced the middle-order batsman in Monday's win over United Arab Emirates.

Paul Stirling hit 126 in that game with skipper William Porterfield contributing 92 and Kevin O'Brien adding a brisk unbeaten 50 after being moved up to number three.

Scotland's tie with Zimbabwe brought back memories of Ireland's similar result against the African nation at the 2007 World Cup in Jamaica.

The Irish defeated Zimbabwe by five runs at the 2015 World Cup in Tasmania and another tight game would be no surprise.

Experienced middle-order batsmen Brendan Taylor and Sikandar Raza have been Zimbabwe's most productive run-scorers so far in the tournament with Taylor's average 69.75 and Raza's 48.50.

Raza has also taken 10 wickets at an economical rate of 3.85 while Graeme Cremer, Tendai Chisoro and Blessing Muzarabani have also bowled well in their home conditions.

However, the Irish bowling attack has also been impressive with Tim Murtagh leading their stats with nine wickets and Boyd Rankin taking eight dismissals.

Following the match against Zimbabwe, Ireland will also play Scotland on Sunday, 18 March, and against Afghanistan on Friday, 23 March.