Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
It's still one step forward, but a bigger one backwards for Ireland in Twenty20 cricket after they crashed to defeat against hosts Oman in the second game of the five-nation tournament yesterday.
After starting off with an encouraging six wickets revenge victory over Netherlands on Saturday, back to back games in the Muscat heat proved too much for the squad as they collapsed from 86-3, halfway to the Omanis total, after just eight overs to be bowled out for 130 just eight overs later.
There is enough batting talent in this Ireland line-up to avoid slumps like this – a recurring theme in the shortest format in recent years – but it must be remembered that it is still a new-look team on a journey and when the experienced batsmen at the top of the order are dismissed, the youngsters cannot expect to maintain the momentum every time.
Harry Tector, the 19-year-old from YMCA in only his third international, was the star on Saturday, winning the match with 10 balls to spare, after crashing 28 from his last eight balls. Yesterday, he was leg before, sweeping, for 12 , six balls after Gareth Delany was bowled for 11 and five before skipper Gary Wilson's attempted uppercut ended in the hands of the wicket-keeper.
Shane Getkate went back in the next over and tamely lobbed one to the bowler and even when Stuart Thompson came down the pitch and missed, Ireland still had 43 balls to score 65, albeit with only two wickets left.
It looked as if Mark Adair and George Dockrell had seen off Mohammad Nadeem and Khawar Ali who had taken those five wickets for 23 runs but, Dockrell was lbw to Ali's last ball.
When Adair saw last man Craig Young striding to the wicket, the CIYMS all-rounder appeared to be trying to finish the match in two overs. He actually finished it in two balls, a slash to deep cover giving Oman a 43 runs victory with 22 balls unused.
The loss of Paul Stirling, who after failing to score from four balls pulled the next straight to mid-on, was not the first over Ireland wanted but Kevin O'Brien hit four sixes and two fours in the space of nine balls and Andrew Balbirnie had hit four boundaries but both were out trying to clear the long-off and failing.
Oman's innings was dominated by a fourth wicket stand of 83 in 54 balls between opener Jatinder Singh and Aamir Kaleem – they had three of the four highest partnerships in the match – and Ireland for the second day in a row, had to come strong at the end, to peg back their opponents.
Stuart Thompson, replacing Boyd Rankin in the only change from Saturday, was the pick of the bowlers but it was a tough day for the spinners, Delany and Dockrell, who had figures of 1-46 from five overs.