March 14, 2015

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) Ireland captain William Portferfield has been fighting the good fight for Associate, or second-tier, teams at the Cricket World Cup for nearly a decade. So he wasn't about to let another opportunity slip Saturday at what could have been his last pre-match news conference at this year's tournament.

Ireland plays Pakistan at the Adelaide Oval in the last pool match of the tournament on Sunday, with the winner guaranteed a place in the quarterfinals.

The Irish have already won three matches this tournament - over the West Indies, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe. They could still advance with a loss depending on the result of the West Indies-UAE match that is also being playing Sunday.

Still, Porterfield believes Ireland and three other countries which qualified for this World Cup have done enough to convince the International Cricket Council to shelve plans to reduce the tournament from 14 teams this year to 10 when it will be played in England and Wales in four years.

''There is enough evidence there to justify a change regardless of the outcome tomorrow,'' Porterfield said, in a very matter-of-fact way.

In 2019, under current plans by the ICC, only the top eight-ranked countries will be guaranteed spots, and the other two teams will come from a qualifying tournament.

So the likelihood is that instead of having four Associate countries represented - Ireland, Scotland, Afghanistan (which made its tournament debut this year and won a match) and the UAE in 2015 - only two from the second-tier will get a chance to play against the top sides.

Which is what rankles Porterfield the most: How can the lower-ranked teams improve if they only play against themselves and not against better opposition?

''The qualifiers have done very well considering who they've played over the past four years,'' Porterfield said Saturday. ''We've played just nine matches against the top-10 teams in the last four years.''

Porterfield remains on his soap box for the lower-ranked teams because he realizes it has worked once before.

Despite Ireland beating Pakistan, England and Bangladesh in their first two World Cup tournaments in 2007 and 2011, Irish cricket officials were surprised to learn right after the 2011 tournament that plans were underway to reduce the 2015 edition to 10 teams - all full (test-playing) members and no associates.

After heavy criticism led by Ireland, an ICC committee several months later decided that 14 teams should participate in this tournament, including four associate countries.

That battle was won, but the war for recognition continues for guys like Porterfield and the second-tier countries.

''If you want to progress your game and grow the game of cricket then cutting teams in the World Cup is not the way forward,'' Porterfield said earlier in the tournament.

On Saturday, he pleaded for more opportunities.

''If we win tomorrow, it will do even more for Irish cricket, and just underscore all the hard work we have put in,'' Porterfield said. ''And send another message that we belong.''

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