Onwards and upwards for Ireland
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph
IT'S onwards and upwards for Ireland after they confirmed their place in the Super Four stage of the World Twenty20 qualifiers in Dubai yesterday.
Victories against undefeated hosts UAE, today, and the Netherlands tomorrow, may not be enough for Ireland to reach the finals in the West Indies at the end of April but at least they are still in the competition which, after Tuesday's debacle against Afghanistan was by no means certain.
Ironically, Ireland's best chance of returning to the Caribbean is if Afghanistan continue their unbeaten progress - they defeated USA yesterday by 29 runs. As the Afghans carry through the points from their win against the Irish, then two more wins for Ireland will ensure a top two place in the Super Fours and a chance of revenge against the Afghans on Saturday night.
Trent Johnston, yesterday's man of the match in the 37 runs victory over Scotland is hoping that will be the scenario.
“After that hiccup against Afghanistan, hopefully we will get another crack at them in the final and show them we're the best Associate team,” he said.
Johnston, who will be 36 by the time the finals start, continues to inspire Ireland with his new ball bowling. Three more wickets yesterday took his tally for the tournament to seven and with Peter Connell just one behind, for the second day in a row the opposition were down and almost out before the innings got out of the blocks.
On Wednesday, the USA lost their first five wickets in 27 balls, yesterday the Scots lost four in the first two overs and were 12 for five in the fourth. The opening bowlers were aided, it must be said, by some reckless Scottish batting but that was only because they needed to reach their victory target of 137 inside 15 overs to have a chance of bettering Ireland's run-rate and reaching the Super Fours.
They went down with all guns blazing but the bowling was just too accurate and Connell was on a hat-trick in his first over after Frazer Watts was caught at mid-on and skipper Gavin Hamilton swung across the line and was leg before.
Next over it just got better for Ireland as Johnston had Richie Berrington and Neil McCallum both caught at slip and Ireland had taken four wickets for no runs in eight balls. Remarkable stuff. The former captain then took his third wicket in six balls when Jan Stander was caught at deep mid-wicket and everyone was anticipating an early finish.,
It was not be, however, as once again Ireland failed to follow-up their stunning start. Durham's Kyle Coetzer and Gordon Drummond added 62 for the sixth wicket and wicket-keeper Simon Smith hung around while another 23 were added for the seventh. But the innings did end in a hurry, the last four wickets falling for two runs in eight balls as George Dockrell and Kevin O'Brien cashed in after Ireland's Super Four passage has been confirmed.
The batting, as Johnston admitted, was lacklustre - all but Alex Cusack reached double figures but not one went on to 20. However, William Porterfield and Niall O'Brien got Ireland off to their usual fast start and when the captain was out in the eighth over the total was 60.
That dismissal, however, deserves and needs an explanation. The scorecard says run out but hides pure farce with both Porterfield and Botha at the same end. In a classic “after you Claude” situation they insisted on giving up their wicket for each other, did a couple of twirls, which Mark Ramprakash would have been proud of in Strictly Come Dancing. All this time the Scottish fielders were fumbling the ball, and trying to second guess the batsmen so it took forever before the bails were taken off with both batsmen still 18 yards away. Porterfield was adjudged out.
It was hardly worth Botha staying, because he was caught behind, to a nothing shot three balls later and Alex Cusack followed in the next overs as Ireland again lost wickets in a cluster, this time three for four runs.
Cusack and Gary Wilson were both dismissed by the spin of Majid Haq, who repeatedly causes Irish batsmen problems, and although the “big hitters” were there at the end scored only 37 in the last five overs.
Once again Paul Stirling missed out on selection as Ireland chose an unchanged team and with the same venue being used for the last three games, he could find it hard to win back his place as the competition reaches its conclusion.