Cricket-Ireland bat first in push for quarter-final spot

By John Mehaffey HAMILTON, March 10 (Reuters) - Ireland, who need to win one of their remaining two cricket World Cup matches to grab a quarter-final place ahead of West Indies, opted to bat first after winning the toss against India at Seddon Park on Tuesday. India were unchanged while Ireland, whose bowling has been the weakest feature of their game during the tournament, brought in pace bowler Stuart Thompson for spinner Andy McBrine. Defending champions India won all four of their opening matches in Australia and victory over the Irish would ensure they top the group. The teams have played each other twice, in Belfast in 2007 and at the 2011 World in Bangalore, with India winning both times. The Pool B match in New Zealand's fourth-largest city attracted a capacity crowd of 11,000 to the pleasant tree-ringed ground, which features two banks built from soil extracted from the nearby rugby union stadium. "We've approached each match with great clarity and great professionalism," Ireland captain William Porterfield said on the eve of the match. "We've prepared really well. It's a quicker turnaround for this game than what we've necessarily had before but it's a good place we're in and we've got to start afresh." India have been unrecognisable from the team who failed to win a game in New Zealand last year and endured a miserable time in Australia before the World Cup. A relaxed MS Dhoni said he was not unhappy about losing the toss as it would give his side the opportunity to chase a target. (Editing by Peter Rutherford)