Back on the global stage
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
Ireland are back on the global stage after the unpredictable results at the T20 World Cup qualifying tournament continued until the end of the group games.
Jersey’s surprise victory over Oman in the penultimate Group B game was enough to keep Ireland top of Group B, after their speedy eight wickets win over Nigeria on Saturday, and even before they play their next game in Dubai they have confirmed their place at the finals in Australia next October.
Having missed out on this year’s ICC World Cup in England, Ireland will continue their run of appearances at the T20 World Cup, which dates back to 2009, but captain Gary Wilson was still insisting last night that the main objective this week is to win the qualifying tournament.
“We did our job in the last two games, put the pressure back on Oman to get a result today and, fortunately, Jersey did us a favour,” said Wilson.
“It’s great that we can look forward to another World Cup but nothing has changed. I said at the start of the tournament the objective was not just to qualify but to win it and we will do that if we play our best cricket on Friday and Saturday.”
By winning the group, on a superior run-rate from Oman and hosts UAE who also won four of their six games, they miss out on potentially tricky play-off games tomorrow and Wednesday and can enjoy a five-day break from action, with their semi-final not taking place until Friday afternoon (1010 GMT).
Canada, who defeated Ireland in their group game, are one of six teams on their way home after UAE beat them in the final game of the first week last night by 14 runs and it let Trent Johnston’s Hong Kong into Wednesday’s eliminator match against the losers of the Namibia-Oman play-off game tomorrow.
Scotland also scraped into the other eliminator match by finishing fourth in Group A despite losing their final group game to Netherlands yesterday by four wickets.
The Dutch had a chance of securing first place in the group if they had repeated their fast scoring exploits against Ireland at the 2014 World T20 but a couple of quick wickets during the charge left them happy to settle for the win with three overs to spare.
That left Papua New Guinea as the surprise winners of Group A and they will play in the second semi-final on Friday.
Ireland will have a new player in the squad this week and available for selection. Barry McCarthy, who hasn’t played a T20 international since June last year, arrived in Abu Dhabi last night as replacement for David Delany who headed in the opposite direction after scans on his left knee confirmed the 21-year-old speedster has a torn meniscus, sustained after diving for a ball in the third over of the game against Jersey on Friday.
Delany managed to bowl 15 deliveries before the injury worsened – he also took two wickets – and he had to leave the field, and now the tournament, a devastating blow for Ireland’s fastest bowler who was playing only his eighth international, after breaking into the team at last month’s Tri-Series in Malahide.
Ireland certainly didn’t need him on Saturday, as Craig Young again stepped up to the mark with his career best T20 international figures and Mark Adair continued his outstanding form as Nigeria were restricted to 66-9.
Ireland knocked off the runs in 6.1 overs, good enough to leapfrog Oman on run-rate and, as they now know, good enough to book their place in the finals.
Saturday’s scores: Nigeria 66-9 (C Young 4-13, M Adair 2-10, G Dockrell 1-16, G Delany 1-17) Ireland 67-2 (6.1 overs, K O’Brien 32). Ireland won by eight wickets.
This week’s fixtures:
Tuesday: Netherlands v UAE (10.10), Namibia v Oman (1530)
Wednesday: Scotland v loser of Netherlands v UAE, Hong Kong v loser of Namibia v Oman
Thursday: 5th-6th place play-off
Friday: Ireland v TBC (10.10am), Papua New Guinea v TBC (3.30pm)
Saturday: 3rd-4th place play-off (10.10am), Final (3.30pm)