Cricket: In-form Ireland begin bid for place at T20 World Cup finals

Ireland's Mark Adair plays inter-provincial cricket with the Belfast-based Northern Knights
Ireland's Mark Adair plays inter-provincial cricket with the Belfast-based Northern Knights

Ireland begin the quest for a place at next year's Twenty20 World Cup at a qualifying tournament in Abu Dhabi.

Graham Ford's cricketers play Hong Kong on Friday in what will be their first match of the group stages.

The Irish have shown good form in warm-up games and need to finish in the top four places in their group of seven to stay in contention for qualification.

Top spot will secure automatic qualification at next year's T20 World Cup finals in Australia.

Ireland also face UAE, Oman, Canada and Jersey before completing their fixtures in the group stages against Nigeria on 26 October.

Ireland won a T20 International Tri-Series on home soil in September
Ireland won a T20 International Tri-Series on home soil in September

The Irish won a T20 Tri-Series tournament on home soil last month as well as three games out of four in Oman last week.

Ford said: "Pleasingly some of the group have found good form and the wins we have had of late have been good for the squad's confidence.

"It may sound like a cliche, but we have been on a journey as a team over the last two years.

"However, we are nowhere near finished.

"We have brought through a number of young players into the set-up, and my belief is when exposing young players to the challenges and pressures of a higher level of cricket it is vital to have some older, experienced heads around them.

"And the experienced guys have done an outstanding job in building up and supporting the younger lads."

Ireland have risen in the ICC T20I world rankings from 18th to 14th in the last year.

Ireland squad - G Wilson (Northern Knights, captain), M Adair (Northern Knights), A Balbirnie (Leinster Lightning), D Delany (Northern Knights), G Delany (Leinster Lightning), G Dockrell (Leinster Lightning), S Getkate (Northern Knights), K O'Brien (Leinster Lightning), B Rankin (North West Warriors), S Singh (Leinster Lightning), P Stirling (Middlesex), H Tector (Northern Knights), S Thompson (North West Warriors), L Tucker (Leinster Lightning), C Young (North West Warriors).