Ireland loss leaves no margin for error
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
IRELAND will have to win all their remaining games in the UAE if they are to achieve captain Gary Wilson’s objective of winning the T20 World Cup qualifying tournament.
A second defeat in four matches, this one by unbeaten Canada, all but condemns Ireland to the play-off route for their passage to the finals in Australia next year, and they most likely will have to win their last two group games just to get to that stage.
A 10-run defeat was as good as Ireland could have hoped for after losing their prolific top four by the start of the eighth over, leaving the other seven batsmen to score 103 from 77 balls. A belligerent 28 not out from Stuart Thompson ensured their net run rate did not get badly affected, but it is all starting to get a little messy.
Having chosen to bat first — Wilson would have bowled — Canada survived the loss of the experienced Riswan Cheema to a 90mph rocket from David Delany to put on a second wicket stand of 111 in 78 balls and, although Ireland stormed back to limit the Maple Leafs to 32 from the last five overs, 156 looked to be above par on another painfully slow pitch.
Ireland also lost an early wicket — Kevin O’Brien holing out to deep cover in the first over — but what wasn’t in the plan was the run-out of Gareth Delany, keeping his place at No.3, in the fifth over, and next ball Andrew Balbirnie, back after illness, bowled middle stump by slow left-armer Saad Zafar.
Ironically, the last time Balbirnie batted at No.4, against Afghanistan at Bready last year, he was also out first ball.
When Paul Stirling was caught behind, off the first ball of Zafar’s next over, Canada were on top, and they continued to turn the screw with an impressive bowling display which restricted Ireland to just one boundary in the next eight overs.
Mark Adair hit that one but it has been a rare event from Ireland’s big-hitter down the order. Ignoring the two, uncapped, warm-up games for this tournament, since he cleared the boundary against Netherlands in the first match of the pentangular tournament in Oman he has hit only two fours from his last 71 balls.
Adair, though, continues to be Wilson’s most dependable bowler, conceding only one boundary in the first over and just 12 runs in the last two. All that was missing was a deserved wicket.
He received excellent support in the powerplay from Boyd Rankin — sharing the new ball for the first time since Adair came into the team in May — and David Delany as Wilson went with his three best bowlers, and that was one plan that came off, Canada’s total of 35-1 the second lowest conceded by Ireland after six overs this year.
However, the danger signs went up just two balls later when George Dockrell was hit for six by Navneet Dhaliwal on his way to a 37-ball 50, and a reverse sweep by Nitish Kumar off the slow left arm bowler brought up the 100 partnership.
It was Gareth Delany who broke the stand, having Dhaliwal caught at deep mid-wicket, and when Rankin had Kumar caught in the same position, the ball after he brought up his own 50, Ireland took advantage of the new batsmen in the middle to give their own a decent chance at halfway.
Wilson had chosen to chase because all seven matches on the ground (bar Nigeria’s games) had been won by the team batting second. Until yesterday.
And Hong Kong followed Canada’s lead in the late game when, batting first, they defeated Jersey by eight runs to keep the Channel Islanders level on points with Ireland ahead of the teams’ crucial meeting tomorrow morning.