Cricket: South Africans hold balance of Stormont power
The learning curve is still a steep one for this Ireland side as South Africa A impressively clinched the three-game 50-over series with a match to spare, winning a rain-interrupted clash at Stormont by six wickets.
Two wickets in three balls from Ireland bowler Stuart Thompson, with the tourists within five runs of victory, brought some respectability to the result but this was another emphatic performance by South African players desperate to prove they should be part of the new number one team in Test cricket.
Even without the bowler of the tour so far, Wayne Parnell, and Ryan McLaren, another with Test match experience, the South Africans still had enough firepower to restrict Ireland to 143 for eight when rain prematurely ended the innings in the 41st over.
When the game resumed, only 35 overs remained but, less than five overs into that innings, another rain interruption reduced the match still further, to the minimum 20 overs, with 96 the new target.
With nine wickets in hand, it was always likely to be a stroll but Max Sorensen and Albert van der Merwe made them work hard for their runs and Thompson removed both captain Colin Ingram and wicket-keeper David Vilas after a third wicket stand of 48 in nine overs.
Still, there were 13 balls to spare when the winning boundary was hit.
Ireland made three changes to the team that lost the first game, in Strabane on Sunday by 68 runs, with Trent Johnston rested in favour of Sorensen; Stuart Poynter replaced behind the stumps by Rory McCann and Andrew Balbirnie coming in for Nigel Jones, who was ruled out with a sore shoulder.
This was Balbirnie’s first innings since his county championship debut for Middlesex but it ended after just nine balls and should have ended six balls earlier when he was dropped off a no ball.
John Anderson played a much more positive innings as his opening partner, his 16 coming off 19 balls but his adventurous spirit got the better of him and he was quickly caught behind.
James Shannon enjoyed some luck, especially from a huge caught behind appeal but he was still top scorer, threatened only by Andrew Poynter who hit the only six of the innings in his 28.
Ireland will try again to get closer in the third match at Stormont tomorrow (10.45am start and free admission).