Ireland cricketers fail to claim a Super finish
It wasn't the way Ireland wanted to finish the Super Eight stage of the World Cup Qualifying tournament but if there had been something at stake in their final game against Kenya yesterday then surely the outcome would have been different.
Kenya reached their target of 209 with two overs to spare but it was an Ireland performance which hinted at saving itself for the final.
That is the only game that mattered at this point after they assured their place in the 2011 finals on Wednesday.
The decider, now confirmed against Canada on Sunday, has been the focus of attention for everyone in the Ireland camp ahead of this encounter.
And when Eoin Morgan, Alex Cusack, Trent Johnston and Boyd Rankin were left out yesterday, an eighth victory out of nine appeared to the be least of Ireland’s concerns.
Three of the missing players have “niggling injuries” although National Coach Phil Simmons said all will be fit for Sunday’s showdown.
But Morgan, perhaps paying the penalty for his decision to return to Middlesex before the final — he flies home today — was relegated to 12th man.
So Andrew Poynter was given his No 3 batting position yesterday, John Mooney returned for his third game of the tournament and Kyle McCallan and Phil Eaglestone, who only arrived in the country last Sunday as replacement for Andre Botha, both played their first.
It didn’t look a strong enough side to cope with the talented Kenyans who knew they needed a win to be assured of a place in the World Cup finals — and in the end it wasn’t.
But Simmons insisted the team played well enough despite ultimately coming up short.
“We were 20 runs short. We had two bad overs going into the power play which brought them back into the game,” said Simmons.
“They also bowled well in the first 15 overs when we found it hard to score but to take it down to the last two overs showed the fight and urgency was still there.”
Niall O’Brien, settling in to his No 4 role in this team, finished top scorer with 59 but he enjoyed two lives, the first of which, a catch to first slip, came off his second ball.
His brother Kevin survived an even easier chance to Kenya captain Steve Tikolo at second slip, three balls later, so it could have been even worse for Ireland who needed 34, from 27 balls, mainly in the batting power play from John Mooney to get Ireland beyond 200.
Mooney gave the runs back with the ball, however, but McCallan, on his 206th appearance, returned with the control expected of the veteran off spinner.
And until the last couple of overs, the Waringstown man was well supported by slow left armer Regan West.
But, after taking four wickets for 96, in 27 overs, Thomas Odoyo, not for the first time, in partnership with Collins Obuya thwarted Ireland.
And with the help of 55 runs in the five power play overs — Ireland managed only 34 in theirs — Kenya romped home.
Still, Ireland can now officially concentrate on the final.
Scores: Ireland - 208-9 (50 overs, N O’Brien 59, J Mooney 34, A White 25, K O’Brien 22, W Porterfield 21).
Kenya - 209-4 (48 overs, C Obuya 66 not out, T Odoyo 50 not out, K Obuya 31; R West 2-40). Ireland won by six wickets.