HOBART - Ireland and Zimbabwe face each other in a Pool B clash at Bellerive Oval in Hobart on Saturday in a match that could have a key bearing on both sides' chances of reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The Irish are just ahead of Zimbabwe in the standings with four points from three matches compared to the Africans' two from four.

Zimbabwe have two handicaps going into the match against Ireland, arguably the most impressive of all the four non-Test or Associate sides at this World Cup. They will be without captain Elton Chigumbura after the 28-year-old all-rounder suffered a thigh injury when he tripped and fell while chasing a ball in Sunday's 20-run loss to Pakistan at the Gabba in Brisbane.

The nature of that defeat was also something of a body-blow to Zimbabwe, whose only win at the tournament so far was a hard-fought success over the part-timers from the UAE. Zimbabwe held Pakistan to a modest 235 for seven but, despite several batsmen getting starts, they came up short in their chase. "We needed a partnership but unfortunately 50 and 30-run partnerships won't get you over the line," said Zimbabwe wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor.

"It is extremely difficult to comprehend this loss. We were cruising nicely but again we found ways to get out at crucial periods -- some soft dismissals as well. That's been a major downfall for us in the last four games, crucial periods when batters have needed to get through those initial periods, then finding ways to get out. It's not helping the team's cause."

However, Taylor insisted Zimbabwe were not that far away their best form. "We feel we are 80 percent there. We think if we can close that gap a little bit more, I think we are heading in the right direction for a good win against Ireland."

The Irish too will come into this match on the back of a defeat, a 201-run thrashing by South Africa where the Proteas pair of Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis both scored hundreds in a massive total of 411 for four.

It was Ireland's first loss in Pool B after wins over the West Indies and the UAE. But given South Africa made 408 for five against the West Indies in their preceding match, this defeat may be easier for Ireland to brush aside as 'one of those things' than Zimbabwe's loss to Pakistan will be for the Africans. "You've got to put it behind you pretty quickly," said Ireland captain William Porterfield. "The tournament's back-end fixtures come pretty quickly.

"Every game is a two-pointer for us and Hobart is no different. Two points are up for grabs and they are a pretty big two points for us."

 Whatever the outcome of Saturday's match, it will do well to match the excitement of Ireland and Zimbabwe's only previous World Cup encounter when the teams played out a thrilling tie at Sabina Park, Kingston, during the 2007 edition in the Caribbean.


William Porterfield (capt), Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Andrew McBrine, John Mooney, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, Max Sorensen, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson, Craig Young

S Raza, Regis Chakabva, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, H Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Solomon Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Tinashe Panyangara, Brendan Taylor, Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams