Ger Siggins in the USA

THE Sunshine State they call it. But it was more Mops and Bucket than Tubbs and Crockett as Ireland tumbled out of the Men’s T20 World Cup in rain-soaked Lauderhill, just north of Miami, yesterday.

The Group A game against the United States finally succumbed to a cloudburst just as they were set to play a drastically shortened game after two days of heavy rain saturated the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium Turf Ground. The inundation had stopped a couple of hours before the scheduled 10.30am start but although the pitch was well covered the soaking to the outfield would have made play dangerous for out-fielders.

The ground staff made efforts to sop up the standing water, and Ireland’s players did their bit to sway the umpires with an impromptu football match, but the damage was done.

Umpires Sharfuddoula, from Bangladesh, and Australian Rod Tucker, gave the game every chance to start with several inspections but soon after the 1.15pm call was welcomed by thumbs-up from the Irish support staff, a crack of thunder heralded the fatal downpour of ‘tropical moisture’.

It was a damp and disappointing conclusion to a very disappointing tournament for Ireland, who have to go through the motions tomorrow with a dead rubber against also-eliminated Pakistan, beaten finalists in the last T20 World Cup.

After the game was abandoned, former captain Andrew Balbirnie said: ‘Days like today are some of the most frustrating in the game. The lads waited around, some playing cards, others doing quiz questions or watching a bit of the US Open golf on TV, but then the rains came. It was a very frustrating day.’

‘We’re very disappointed naturally. We came here with high hopes and ambitions having played some good cricket in the lead-up, but that’s the way it’s played out.’

America’s advance to the Super Eights was well deserved however, playing good cricket to beat Pakistan and see off the Canadian side that took down Ireland.

The home media has started to wake up to this new sport at which the US is pretty good. ‘The USA have managed to do the unthinkable,’ bubbled the venerable Sporting News, deciding the team ‘have undoubtedly pulled off one of the greatest underdog stories in T20 World Cup history, and could even manage to go further, considering the quality of cricket that they have displayed throughout the tournament.’

Not only have the US reached the Super Eights but have also qualified for the 2026 tournament in India/Sri Lanka. Some observers say they have now made a good case to get a hosts spot at the 2028 Olympics, which would be even more beneficial in terms of funding and profile.

Ireland however, are still awaiting confirmation that they have qualified for the 2026 event – if any of Nepal, Netherlands or Scotland make the second phase here they will be forced to run the gauntlet of a qualifying tournament. The Scots present the biggest danger, as a rain-off in Antigua or St Lucia could put them through at England’s expense, or of course an unlikely win over a co-operative Australia.

It’s back to the T20 drawing board for Heinrich Malan and his team, with Ireland’s record at the short format World Cup showing just one qualification for the Super Eights, back in 2009.