Skipper Andrew Balbirnie believes bowler Josh Little could hold the key to Ireland's chances of reaching the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 Super 12s after he starred against Sri Lanka.
Little returned career-best figures of four for 23 in Abu Dhabi, which featured two wickets in his first over, but could not prevent Sri Lanka from winning by 70 runs to secure their own safe passage to the next round.
The 21-year-old left-arm bowler might have been on the losing side here but his performance was impressive, taking his 2021 T20I wicket tally to 12 from nine matches.
"I was excited at eight for three. Josh Little bowled to his plans and he has been a real find for us this year, he has bowled beautifully for us up top and we put them in real trouble," ICC quoted Balbirnie as saying.
"But the way their guys came out and played was really impressive and took the innings away from us in the middle. But I thought we came back quite well."
"Josh is a huge asset. He has been a force in ODI cricket this year and really comes to the fore. He showed off those new-ball skills and attacked the stumps. On these wickets, he comes into his own," he added.
Wanindu Hasaranga hit 71 with the bat as the 2014 champions made 171 for seven batting first, before Maheesh Theekshana's mystery spin helped them dismiss Ireland for 101 in Abu Dhabi.
Ireland now faces a crucial game against Namibia. Both teams have lost to Sri Lanka and beaten the Netherlands so far and the winner of Friday's clash will progress to the Super 12s.
"We are excited, they are the games you want to play in when you grow up watching cricket and see the knock-out games. They are the ones we want to be part of, so we will rest up and be ready," Balbirnie said.
"We started the week really well and put in some really good performances against the Dutch. We knew if we lost that game, we would be playing catch up."
"This is a good Sri Lanka team, I thought they batted and bowled really well. We started well with the ball and finished well with the ball but we could not really get it going with the bat. We have a massive game on Friday now and it is all to play for," Balbirnie added.