Rankin returns to boost Ireland
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
BOYD Rankin is expected to be fit to return to the Ireland side for this morning’s winner-take-all Desert T20 game against UAE in Dubai after being ruled out of yesterday’s five wickets victory over Namibia with a back problem.
Rankin stayed in the team hotel yesterday while the team made a three-hour return trip to the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi for the game which finally ended a seven-match losing run in the shortest format. A win today and Ireland are through to finals day on Friday, but defeat will see them head home and the hosts, who won the last T20 game between the teams here last February, will join Afghanistan as qualifiers from Group A.
Captain William Porterfield, though is confident that they have the momentum to make it back to back wins for the first time in 12 months.
“We know each other very well and I’m confident we will be a good place to get two points tomorrow and progress,” he said. “It’s a quick turnaround but we played pretty good cricket in the first match (against Afghanistan) and now it’s a case of taking that momentum into the UAE game.
“It’s a short competition but it’s important to peak at the right time and if we take another step forward tomorrow then we will be happy.”
It still needed a tremendous comeback from the bowlers to set up yesterday’s win after Namibia raced off with an 81 runs opening partnership at 10 an over but seven wickets for 57 in the final 10 overs restricted Namibia to 146.
Stuart Poynter, who was not even in the original squad of 14, against justified his call-up to upstage both Paul Stirling and William Porterfield and although he was out in the 10th over with the total on 73, the platform was there for Kevin O’Brien and Gary Wilson to finish the job.
The victory could have been more comfortable but for a stunning catch by Gerhard Erasmus on the deep mid-wicket boundary to cut short O’Brien’s run-ball innings, bringing back memories of his dismissal against the Netherlands in last year’s World Twenty20.
When he held it my mind flashed back to Dharamshala. He actually misjudged it, coming in off the rope, but he back-tracked, stuck out a right mit and it stuck. Unlucky for me again it wasn’t a couple of inches higher,” said O’Brien.
Wilson though, accelerated to perfection and although Greg Thompson perished with 19 runs still required, Andy McBrine was coolness personified to hit the winning boundary with two balls remaining.
Just as cool under pressure was 17-year-old Josh Little who, crucially, took two wickets and conceded only two runs in the last over while Jacob Mulder, also playing only his third game, had figures of two for 10 in his last three overs after conceding 17 in his first!