Bridge too far as Ireland slaughtered in final
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
THE Desert T20 final proved a game too far as Ireland followed their biggest victory, in the semi-final against Scotland, with their first ever 10-wicket defeat, to Afghanistan.
The highs of a relatively successful tournament will be overshadowed by the final innings when Ireland were bowled out for 71 but captain William Porterfield fairly stated that that was the only disappointment of the week.
“We didn’t adapt as well as we should have between the two games, we didn’t think conditions would change as much as they did and coming off a 98-run win and scoring 211 on the same pitch, the dew that came down made it a little tackier. But that was the only way I could fault the team this week,” he said afterwards.
“The big positive was getting that winning feeling and momentum back in Twenty20 cricket, and I loved the way the guys batted this afternoon.”
The semi-final was only the fifth time Ireland had passed 200 in T20 cricket — all in the UAE — and indeed their third highest total equalled the ground record at the Dubai International Stadium, set by Sri Lanka against Pakistan in 2013. Paul Stirling led the way with 60, including five fours and three sixes, but his knock was bettered by Gary Wilson at the end, an international T20 best of 65 not out, when he matched his more renowned big-hitting colleague six for six and added three extra boundaries as Ireland scored 109 in the last 10 overs.
The Scots threatened briefly, reaching 66 for one at the end of the six-over powerplay — just five runs fewer than Ireland at the same stage — but when Jacob Mulder — who ended his first international tournament as the leading wicket-taker — struck with his third ball, it was the beginning of the end as the Scots’ intensity to boost their increasingly hectic run chase only resulted in an even speedier fall of wickets; the last nine falling for 39 runs in 50 balls.
But barely two hours later, after Porterfield had won another toss and confidently chose to bat again, what a difference.
Stuart Poynter hit two fours and was out third ball.
Porterfield hit a six from his third ball but was dismissed for his fourth single-figure score of the week and it carried on in a similar vein for just 13.2 overs with Craig Young, required to bat for only the third time in 17 T20s, the last man out.
Ireland’s bowlers did not have a chance of defending such a small total unless they took early wickets and when Boyd Rankin’s first disappeared for 16, it was just a question of when not if Afghanistan would confirm their dominance of this tournament with their fifth successive triumph.
Ireland now have only seven weeks to wait before they face the Afghans again in a nine-match series in India, which starts with three T20 internationals.