William Porterfield leads by example with record-breaking Twenty20 total
William Porterfield played Ireland's greatest Twenty20 innings to send his side to the top of Group A in the world qualifying tournament in Abu Dhabi with three games remaining.
Porterfield scored 127 not out from just 69 balls with 12 fours and five sixes – all of those figures are Irish records – the ninth highest individual score in the shortest format of the game and the Ireland total of 216 for four was also their best.
Their hapless opponents, as they were when the records were last set three years ago in the same stadium in the same competition, were the United States.
Then it was Niall O'Brien who top scored with a much more modest 84 not out in Ireland's 202 for four. Yesterday, O'Brien didn't even get a bat as Ireland's regular opening pair of Porterfield and Paul Stirling raced away at nearly 12 runs an over.
Only three came off the first over but a remarkable 91 came off the next eight with the captain making his normally hard-hitting partner look like Geoff Boycott.
When Stirling was out for 25 – still with a strike rate of over 150 – Ireland promoted their big-hitters, Kevin O'Brien, Trent Johnston and John Mooney and with the latter taking his chance and scoring an unbeaten 32 off just 13 balls, no-one else was needed.
But the innings was all about Porterfield as the runs and records flowed off his bat. He brought up his 50 in the fifth over, from 23 balls with five fours and four sixes (Stirling was on three!).
He enjoyed a life on 93 when he was visibly tiring, a simple chance to deep mid-wicket, but five balls later he brought up his 11th century for Ireland and then got a second wind, his remaining 26 runs coming off just eight balls.
After that, it was the formality of bowlers completing the job and although the United States responded with 51 in the first five overs, George Dockrell and Stirling came into the attack and eight overs later the Ireland spin twins had taken five for 44. Contest over.
Porterfield also had the luxury of introducing Max Sorensen in the 15th over and he added another two wickets to his tally, the first to the second of two sensational running catches by Alex Cusack, before victory by 75 runs was completed with three balls unused.
Porterfield said: "It's pleasing to get a hundred in this format, they are few and far between, so it's nice to get one under the belt and, more importantly, get a good win – we've had a couple of close ones in our first three games. You don't get many 70-80 runs wins in T20 cricket."
Hong Kong joined Ireland in first place, having played a game more, after an eight wickets defeat of Namibia in yesterday's other Group A game. Italy, early this morning, and Uganda, tomorrow afternoon, are Ireland's next two opponents in the group stages.
Each have already lost three of their first four games but Porterfield is taking nothing for granted, remembering how close they came to losing to the Italians in last year's qualifying tournament.
Porterfield said: "The last time we played Italy we only knocked it off in the last over. I think we were only chasing about 100."
"It was a tricky-ish deck with not a lot of bounce and they bowled quite straight.
"So they did make it difficult for us, and we will not be taking them lightly."