Twenty20 World Cup comes alive
Ian Callender (Mail On Sunday)
The World Twenty20 came alive yesterday and so did Ireland's hopes of reaching the Super Eight.
For two and a half hours yesterday in Colombo's Premadasa Stadium, West Indies and Australia served up wonderful entertainment, with 291 runs in 29.1 overs and then the rain came. Australia's stunning reply (100 for one) to the Windies 191 for eight was more than enough to give them victory, guarantee them first place in Group B and leave Ireland in a straight fight with the Windies for second place.
That game takes place under the floodlights tomorrow (3pm Irish time) and after their capitulation to the Aussies last week that was Ireland's dream scenario.
But Australia beating West Indies was the easy bit. Ireland have a record of one win in their last 13 against Caribbean opposition and the size of their task was underlined by a powerful batting display from Darren Sammy's side against exactly the same opposition who had hammered Ireland in their opening game on Wednesday.
Chris Gayle, the second ranked batsmen in T20 cricket, thrilled the biggest crowd of the tournament with 54 from 33 balls, with five fours and four sixes, taking full advantage of the life he got when just four, dropped at thirdman by Shane Watson.
It was Watson who had destroyed Ireland last Wednesday and here he was attempting to destroy Ireland's hopes of progress.
But it wasn't just Gayle that Ireland must fear tomorrow. Marlon Samuels followed with a similar display of power-hitting exactly 50 off 30 balls, also with four massive boundary clearances and Darren Bravo joined the party by punching a six over cover in his 27 off 21 balls. Kieron Pollard made only 10 and Andre Russell, who invariably enjoys himself against Ireland, did not even make the starting XI.
Watson, however made amends for that drop with another thrilling innings of 41 not out from just 24 balls with two fours and three sixes to ensure Australia were well ahead on Duckworth/Lewis when the rain prematurely ended the match.
Ireland are likely to field the same team tomorrow night with Phil Simmons' usual policy after an opening night flop to say to his players, you got us into this mess, not get us out of it'.
It is hard to envisage a change with the game being played on the same ground, albeit under lights. But Max Sorensen, ignored since the opening warm-up game would suddenly seem to be the forgotten man, despite impressive T20 bowling in home conditions this summer, while Tim Murtagh bowled himself out of contention in his two warm-up games and there is no reason why he should be thrust ahead of Nigel Jones who did nothing wrong last Wednesday.
Jones, the Civil Service North captain, was selected ahead of Sorensen against Australia because he is the better batsman he scored 14 off 10 balls at the end, including the only six of the innings and although he didn't bowl, his spell was instrumental in clawing Ireland back from the jaws of defeat in their final warm-up game against Bangladesh.
He remains the man in possession.