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Ireland falls to UAE in opening match of the T20 World Cup Qualifier

Ireland falls to UAE in opening match of the T20 World Cup Qualifier
Ireland falls to UAE in opening match of the T20 World Cup Qualifier
©Cricket Ireland / Kaushal Adhikari

Ireland Men got its World Cup qualifying campaign off to a rocky start by slipping to a 18-run loss to the UAE in the opening Group Stage match of the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier at the Al Almerat Stadium today.

The result, while not fatal to the side’s chances of qualification, means Ireland needs to win its next three games to be World Cup-bound later this year.

Having lost to the UAE in the warm-up tournament last week, the Men in Green once more stumbled against the Emerati side in crucial phases of the game – notably the death overs bowling. Where the UAE bowlers executed their skills and bowled containing lines taking 4-36 in the last five overs of the Irish innings, by contrast Ireland forfeited 63 runs – and taking only one wicket - in the last five overs of the UAE’s innings.

Being set 158 to win, the Irish run chase started well with Paul Stirling (32) and Andrew Balbirnie (19) putting on 50 from the first 36 balls. But, just as the Irish openers were looking to push on, Stirling was caught at deep mid-wicket looking to clear the ropes from a ball that was that wasn’t quite there to hit. Balbirnie fell soon after, and a familiar tone sounded around the Irish batting.

Gareth Delany fell to a freakish caught and bowled effort by Palaniapan Meiyappan – palming up a full-blooded drive, almost volleyball-style to dismiss the Leinster-batter for 3 – before the Irish run rate began to fall away. When Simi Singh was dismissed two overs later, Ireland had lost 4-16 in 4 overs, and UAE had their three-pronged spin attack turning the screws with effective, containing bowling.

Lorcan Tucker (25), Shane Getkate (17) and Andy McBrine (14*) got starts, but the run rate required through the middle overs continued to mount to an unsustainable level. The Irish innings eventually came to a close at 139-9, handing UAE an 18-run victory.

Earlier in the day UAE captain Ahmed Raza won the toss and decided to bat first – an outcome that was met with satisfaction by Irish skipper Balbirnie as he confirmed he was going to bowl first if he won the toss.

Mark Adair gave Ireland the perfect start, claiming the wicket of Chirag Suri in the first over with a late in-swinging yorker that beat the bat and crashed into off stump.

Dangerman Muhammad Waseem fell to Craig Young shortly after – courtesy of a well-judged diving catch by Delany at mid-wicket – and UAE were 20-2 in the 5th over.

However, Ireland weren’t able to capitalise on the good start, and the UAE recovery began with 19-year old Player of the Match Vriitya Aravind. The right-handed wicketkeeper-batter scored freely and with intelligence, turning the strike over regularly, while finding the boundary at key times. His innings - just his second T20I half-century in his 13th match - of 97* from just 67 balls featured 13 fours and a six, and was near flawless as he batted through to the innings and striking a six and two fours off the final three balls of the 20th over.

The UAE finished on 157-5 from their 20 overs and looked well on top at the halfway stage of a tense match.

After the match captain Balbirnie said:

“We thought we couldn’t have started the run chase better, the powerplay went well having lost momentum in the match through those last few overs with the ball. Unfortunately, we then lost three wickets – we really put ourselves under pressure from then on.

“I thought we bowled pretty well, until the last two or three overs when they got away from us a bit. We really now have to dust ourselves down and come back tomorrow. We now need to win three games of cricket in the next three matches to qualify.”

Ireland continues their ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier campaign tomorrow against Bahrain at 2pm (local time) or 10am (GMT) at the same venue.