Ireland brush aside Nigeria
Ian Callender (Sunday Times)
Ireland are one win away from confirming their place at the T20 World Cup in Australia next year after completing the formality of beating Nigeria in their last group game at the qualifying tournament in Abu Dhabi.
The west Africans were only included following the suspension of Zimbabwe and their batsmen had no answer to the Ireland pace bowlers who took 6-33 in their 12 overs as Nigeria were restricted to 66-9. Ireland knocked off the runs for the loss of two wickets by the start of the seventh over to leap above Oman at the top of Group B. It was the fifth quickest win in a T20 international.
The Omanis play Jersey in their final group game today and victory would confirm their place in the finals, leaving Ireland to negotiate the play-offs in Dubai this week, although as the second place team in the group they have two chances to make the top six. Victory on Tuesday evening, against the third place team in Group A, would be enough, while defeat sends them into an eliminator against the fourth place team in Group B, a possible revenge face-off against Canada who won the group game by 10 runs.
With five games today, the possible permutations for their opponents remains wide open, with only two points separating teams from third to sixth in both groups ahead of last night’s Group A clash between Namibia and Singapore.
Captain Gary Wilson admitted Ireland’s only objective yesterday was to get ahead of Oman on run rate – they started the game 0.64 behind – but even at the toss he was still unsure the best way to go about it.
“If we were really sure that it was going to be a good pitch we probably have batted first, bat them out of the game and then restrict them to 60 or 70, but either way we knew we had a good chance of maximising our run rate and finishing above Oman.”
In the middle, the decision was taken out of his hands and Nigeria chose to bat – Wilson said he would have bowled – and for the second day in a row, in the words of the Jersey captain after Ireland’s six wickets victory over the Channel Islanders, “a professional team produced a professional performance”.
Mark Adair, Ireland’s outstanding bowler, took his ninth and 10th wickets – no one has taken more in the tournament – at a cost of just 10 runs. Indeed, he has conceded only 110 runs in his 24 overs.
Boyd Rankin had an identical economy rate yesterday, without taking a wicket, and both bowled that rare commodity in T20 cricket, a maiden over. Before Friday’s game, Ireland had not bowled one in more than three years and now three have come along in the space of two days – Adair also did it against Jersey.
The leading wicket-taker against Nigeria was Craig Young who was benched for the first four games but replaced Stuart Thompson on Friday and after taking 1-11, followed up with 4-13, his best figures in the shortest format. Three of his victims were clean bowled, as his faster deliveries surprised the batsmen.
Young is sure to retain his place because Ireland will be without David Delany, their fastest bowler, for the rest of the tournament and possibly at the start of next year as well with a torn meniscus in his right knee. He will return home to see a specialist to determine the extent of the injury.
Ireland had only to win the match by the 13th over to go top, but it was never going to take that long once Paul Stirling and Gareth Delany had helped themselves to four fours in the third over, which finished with the total on 30-1. The wicket came in the middle of it when Stirling, who had been dropped at backward point on one, was caught behind for 10.
Kevin O’Brien maintained the charge with another four boundaries in six balls and although he was bowled for 32, Mark Adair took 10 off his first three balls to hurry Ireland to victory.