It was never pretty, but for Ireland yesterday’s low-scoring five wickets victory against Scotland has put them in pole position to retain their World Cricket League title.
It took the Scots 47 overs to score 117 and Ireland another 35 to knock off the runs on a Voorborg pitch where the batsmen were always going to come off second best.
The unpredictable bounce made stroke selection a lottery and although Neil McCallum was struck on the helmet by an Alex Cusack delivery, fortunately he was able to continue and no-one was seriously injured.
McCallum was one of only five batsmen in the match to reach double figures — he was caught and bowled by John Mooney just one run short of a deserved half-century — but in Kevin O’Brien Ireland had their own act of defiance.
O’Brien forsook his natural game to bat for more than two hours in making 41, from 84 balls but his boundary count of six was only two less than the whole of the Scotland innings. Coming to the middle on a hat-trick after debutant Andrew Balbirnie and Alex Cusack were dismissed in successive balls, he led the fightback and finished the job, sharing an unbroken stand of 55 with John Mooney who lived up to his captain’s label of being the best No 7 in associate cricket.
Balbirnie was thrown in at the deep end after James Hall pulled out just before the toss, a bruised finger sustained in the warm-up ruling him out, and hopefully he will not get a worse decision in the rest of his career than the finger of doom which adjudged him caught behind from his eighth delivery. It actually came off his shoulder but no-one would not known by the way he gracefully left the middle.