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Waqar promises full-strength Pakistan

BELFAST - Ireland’s Kevin O’Brian was cleaned up by Junaid Khan. Pakistan will look to repeat their performance.

BELFAST - Pakistan coach Waqar Younis has warned Ireland that his side will be going all out to secure a 2-0 sweep of their short ODI series in Belfast on Monday. Pakistan claimed a thumping seven-wicket victory in yesterday’s opener at Stormont after bowling Ireland out for just 96.

It was an unexpectedly wide-margin success in a game that had loomed as a potential banana skin for the tourists.

Waqar had admitted to being wary of an ever-improving Irish side in their home conditions before the game, especially after Pakistan had only just arrived from their testing tour of the Caribbean on Thursday. They laid any fears he had to rest, however, as Junaid Khan led the rout with career-best figures of four for 12 in his sixth ODI.

It was an impressive display from a 21-year-old, who had only taken three one-day wickets before yesterday, and on the back of it Waqar could be excused for turning to his young players for the final game of a long tour. Pakistan have lived out of hotels for the most part since the World Cup, but Waqar has pledged to select a near full-strength team as he aims to finish on a high. “We are not going to throw all the youngsters in and say, ‘because it is Ireland we can take it easy’,” he said.

“No, that is not going to happen. “This is international cricket and you do have to give your youngsters a chance. It doesn’t matter if it is England or it is Ireland. “But you have to bring on your young players when it is required. “It’s not that you throw them in because you are playing Ireland. “You have to make sure you win and that we are playing good cricket. “That’s exactly what we are going to do.”

Waqar’s warning is not good news for Ireland who lacked any of the defiance that earned them plaudits, and the memorable scalp of England, at this year’s World Cup. They had high hopes of claiming an upset in the series to boost their chances of convincing the International Cricket Council to reverse a decision to omit the associate countries from the next World Cup in 2015.

The ICC’s chief executives’ committee is due to discuss the possibility of introducing a qualification system for the World Cup at a meeting next month. The game will therefore be Ireland’s last chance to prove their credentials, which suffered a major blow on Friday. With that in mind Pakistan skipper expects a far tougher test tomorrow, when another rain-shortened match is likely due to forecast rain.

Ireland all-rounder Trent Johnston has stressed on the importance of beating Pakistan in the second ODI in Belfast, saying that another Full-Member scalp will strengthen Ireland’s case to be considered for the 2015 World Cup. Ireland are 0-1 down in the two-match series after losing the first game, in which they were dismissed for 96, by seven wickets. “It’s important we put in a performance because Ireland and the next World Cup are in the limelight,” Johnston told the BBC.

“The issue is on the tips of people’s tongues that the Associates and Ireland should be allowed a qualification process [for the 2015 World Cup]. Because of that we really need to keep the fire burning and produce a performance against Pakistan. “We know it is not the be all and end all, because we have been consistent in our performances for a while now and think we deserve a chance. But at the same time we can help our cause if we beat Pakistan tomorrow and get another Full-Member scalp.”

The ICC will re-evaluate its decision to limit participation in the 2015 World Cup to the Full Members at its annual conference in June, after there was widespread criticism over their move to axe the Associates from one-day cricket’s showpiece event. Ireland were the best Associate team in the 2011 World Cup, beating England and Netherlands, and running West Indies and Bangladesh close.

Ireland’s cause, and that of the Associates, received a boost at a recent meeting of the ICC’s Cricket Committee, which unanimously supported a qualification system for the 2015 World Cup. Johnston was the Associates representative at the meeting at Lord’s and was encouraged by what he heard. “It was pretty resounding among the people at the meeting that they were happy with a 10-team World Cup, but they were uncomfortable with it being a closed-shop,” he said.

“The consensus was that it is unfair and that there should be some sort of qualification process. “You look at the last World Cup and while there were some lop-sided results with the minnows, ourselves and Holland had some pretty good performances, while a young emerging team like Afghanistan should be given a chance as well. It was pretty unanimous and we even had the CEO of New Zealand [Justin Vaughan], which is a Full-Member nation, back us as well so that is reassuring.”

The final decision, however, will be down to the same people who took the initial decision to shut out Ireland and the other Associates from the tournament in Australia and New Zealand. “The committee that will discuss it next month is the one that made the decision for a ten-team, closed-shop World Cup,” Johnston said. “Obviously the talk around the cricket world has been they got the decision wrong initially, so hopefully they look at what’s been said and decide differently this time.

“There is a lot of backing for us, people have come out and said it is unfair. The only thing we can do now perhaps is help our cause with a better performance against Pakistan on Monday.”