Little shines as Irish U19s launch bid to reach the World Cup
Ireland have made the perfect start in their bid to qualify for the Under-19 World Cup finals with a 76-run victory over hosts Jersey yesterday.
Although leaving a few runs out in the middle when they scored 200 for nine, an excellent bowling performance ensured the result was never in doubt with all seven bowlers, including fifth change Graeme Kennedy of Ballyspallen, sharing the wickets.
Josh Little, the one senior international in the squad, proved a class apart, taking the last wicket in extraordinary circumstances with the first ball of his final over to finish with three for 16.
Skipper Harry Tector took two from his full quota of 10 overs, while Bready's Reece Kelly (1-20 from six overs) and Waringstown's Morgan Topping (1-23 from four) were also on target.
Although victory was all but assured, that last wicket was a comedy of errors. The batsman skied the ball into the air and two fielders, but not Little, went for it and collided.
One dropped the ball onto the knee of the other and, somehow, Little reacted to catch it, inches before it hit the ground for what went into the scorebook as a caught and bowled.
It was Little and Max Neville who had put Jersey on the back foot, reducing them to 10 for three in the sixth over, and at this age group there is usually no way back from that.
The Islanders' highest partnership was 37 for the fourth wicket, and they lost their fifth on the same score to make the second half of the innings a formality.
There is still room for improvement in the Irish batting as only one of the top six reached 20, opener Mark Donegan for 21, while Kennedy was leg before for 19, Topping caught at mid-on for eight and Kelly was run out going for an impossible second in the rush for late runs.
Indeed, it was Neil Rock (No.7), Little (No.8) and Neville (No.10) who were the three top scorers as Ireland's last five wickets put on 104.
Little also top scored with 33 from 36 balls, and he is set to be the most important member of this squad, who are straight back into action today against Denmark, who lost their opening game to Scotland by 72 runs.
Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to the Instonians injury jinx with wicket-keeper James Metcalfe the latest to succumb - and he will miss the Challenge Cup final against CIYMS at Comber on Saturday.
Metcalfe broke his knuckle in three places during Saturday's Premier League game against Waringstown and was replaced behind the stumps by Jordan McClurkin, who will retain the gloves for the Cup final.
James Shannon (knee) and Shane Getkate (finger) are already doubts for the showpiece game, Stephen Bunting is still not fit to bowl and now they have lost their first-choice wicket-keeper.
Under-19 World Cup Qualifying
Ireland 200-9 (50 overs, J Little 33, N Rock 26, M Neville 22, M Donegan 21; B Ward 3-30) Jersey 124 (39.1 overs JJ Little 3-16, H Tector 2-24). Ireland U19s won by 76 runs