CRICKET-IRELAND:Ireland eye top table after reaching T20 World Cup
DUBAI (Reuters) - Ireland captain William Porterfield said his side's qualification for September's ICC World Twenty20 tournament proved they merited a place at cricket's top table.
Ireland romped to a nine-wicket victory over Namibia on Saturday to join Afghanistan as one of two teams from cricket's second and third tiers to reach the Sri Lanka event.
It is the third successive time Ireland has qualified for the World Twenty20 and the team has also played in the past two 50-over World Cups, securing wins over full member teams Pakistan, England and Bangladesh.
"If you look at where we have come from in 2005 and 2006 then in terms of ticking the ICC (International Cricket Council) boxes we have been doing that and, especially with the last two World Cups, everyone has taken notice of the steps Irish cricket has been taking," Porterfield told reporters.
"We are not saying it is going to be easy to make that step up but we feel we are ready to do that and hopefully the ICC can give us that opportunity sooner rather than later."
Porterfield's request for the chance for his side to play against cricket's more established nations echoed those of his fellow captain Nawroz Mangal of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan and Ireland will each receive a preparation grant of US$250,000 from the ICC ahead of September's event.
The Ireland captain said the need for his team to keep reinforcing their cricketing credentials had created a degree of pressure on the players.
"It's not something we spoke about but coming into this tournament we had this expectation from back home and we put it on ourselves as well," he said.
"We have had a taste of playing at World Cups and we want to keep going to them. A lot of players in the dressing room had the disappointment of missing out in 2007 when we failed to qualify (for the inaugural ICC World Twenty20) so this is obviously massive.
"We came into this tournament with the goal of qualifying, we have managed to do that and it is great for Irish sport."
Ireland's win set up a repeat of the final of the 2010 qualifying tournament against Afghanistan, a match Afghanistan won by eight wickets.
Namibia could muster only 94-6 after opting to bat first with man of the match seam bowler Max Sorensen conceding just eight runs from his four overs and taking two wickets.
There were also two wickets for former captain Trent Johnston and only a late flourish from Ian Opperman, who made an unbeaten 26 from 15 balls, disrupted Ireland's complete control.
The target proved inadequate as Paul Stirling reached 50 from only 26 balls, going on to score 59 not out with nine fours and a six.
(Reporting by Brian Murgatroyd ; Editing by Alastair Himmer)