Ireland Off to Convincing Start with 8-wicket Win at World Cup Qualifier
The Ireland Men’s cricket team has begun its T20 World Cup Qualifier campaign with a thumping 8-wicket win over Hong Kong in Abu Dhabi today.
After losing the toss and bowling first, Ireland went out in 34-degree heat seeking a positive bowling performance to start their tournament. 22-year old leg-spinner Gareth Delany struck first removing opener Nizakat Khan for 1.
Kinchit Shah then came to the crease and proceeded to power to his highest T20I score of 79 from 54 balls. Shah played all around the ground, combatting the Irish bowling by shuffling around the crease and hitting through the line, especially against the pace bowlers.
The Hong Kong batters turned the strike over regularly, but couldn’t find a way to hit regular boundaries – thanks in large part to an Irish attack using change-up balls, and varying their pace and length well.
Mark Adair led the line taking 2-22 from four impressive overs, and was well supported by Boyd Rankin who bowled a miserly 0-18 from 4 overs. They were backed-up by the spinners Gareth Delany (1-23 from three overs) and George Dockrell 0-21 from three overs who applied the screws in the middle overs.
Hong Kong finished on 153-5 from their 20 overs, 20-25 runs short of par for this pitch.
In response, Ireland started with a blast – Paul Stirling smashing a six off the first ball – but lost Kevin O’Brien in the first over, run out without facing a ball.
Andy Balbirnie joined Stirling and the pair piled on the runs. Stirling was the chief aggressor, bringing up his 14th career T20I half-century from just 26 balls, while Balbirnie played a number of classical cricket shots and ticked over at a run-a-ball in support.
The two batsmen put on an 86-run stand from 60 balls, but on 62, Stirling miscued a drive and was caught.
However, the run onslaught did not abate, as Balbirnie and the incoming Harry Tector (21*) continued the run chase in style. Balbirnie passed the 50-mark as well – his fourth T20I half-century - and his 70* from 53 balls led Ireland to victory by eight wickets.
Player of the Match Paul Stirling said after the game:
“It’s nice to get a first win on the board, hopefully we can go on from here and keep winning. It was nice to get off to a quick start, you always feel like you’re in control of the innings when you get off to a quick start like that. It’s a very nice pitch, you always expect a good one at the start of a tournament when they’re fresh – especially in the afternoon when the sun comes out.”
Ireland captain Gary Wilson said:
“I don’t think we played our best cricket, to be honest. The pitch played a lot slower than we had hoped. We had to go to our cutters early, which we found to be effective. We’ve learned a lot, and we still have three more games to play in this stadium, so it’s great to win a game when we feel we haven’t played out best. A clinical chase from the boys, I thought Paul [Stirling] was excellent, and Andrew [Balbirnie] has been doing that for us for the last number of years. He’s probably not your belligerent T20 batter you’re used to seeing around the world, but his strike rate is right up there just from playing good cricket shots.”
“Boyd was outstanding, I think that should be the prototype bowling we’ll aim for. We spoke halfway through the innings that we were too full with the ball, but if you look at Boydy with the way his lengths were, I don’t think he went for a boundary in his four overs, and that should be the prototype for the lengths of our balls going forward.”
“We look to our next game against the UAE, if we play our best cricket then we’ll be OK. If we aren’t at our best, then these other teams are good enough to beat us. It’s a case of a thinking a game at a time, if you look too far ahead in these tournaments you can come unstuck.”
Ireland Men v Hong Kong Men, T20 World Cup Qualifier, Abu Dhabi, 18 October 2019
Hong Kong 153-5 (20 overs; K Shah 79; M Adair 2-22)
Ireland 155-2 (17.2 overs; A Balbirnie 70*, P Stirling 62; A Khan 1-31)
Ireland won by 8 wickets
Ireland’s Qualifier fixtures – group stage
* 19 October: Ireland v UAE
Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi; start 7.30pm local time / 4.30pm Irish time
Watch: Sky Sports Cricket
* 21 October: Ireland v Oman
ADC 1, Abu Dhabi; start 2.10pm local time / 11.10am Irish time
* 23 October: Ireland v Canada
Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi; start 2.10pm local time / 11.10am Irish time
* 25 October: Ireland v Jersey
ADC 1, Abu Dhabi; start 10am local time / 7am Irish time
* 26 October: Ireland v Nigeria
Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi; start 10am local time / 7am Irish time
The squad for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier is:
* Gary Wilson (Northern Knights) (Captain), Mark Adair (Northern Knights), Andrew Balbirnie (Leinster Lightning), David Delany (Northern Knights), Gareth Delany (Leinster Lightning), George Dockrell (Leinster Lightning), Shane Getkate (Northern Knights), Kevin O’Brien (Leinster Lightning), Boyd Rankin (North West Warriors), Simi Singh (Leinster Lightning), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Harry Tector (Northern Knights), Stuart Thompson (North West Warriors), Lorcan Tucker (Leinster Lightning), Craig Young (North West Warriors).