It's onwards and upwards for Ireland after they confirmed their place in the Super Four stage of the World Twenty20 qualifiers in Dubai yesterday.
Victories against undefeated hosts UAE today and the Netherlands tomorrow, may not be enough for Ireland to reach the finals in the West Indies in April, but at least they are still in the competition which, after Tuesday’s debacle against Afghanistan was by no means certain.
Ironically, Ireland’s best chance of returning to the Caribbean is if Afghanistan continue their unbeaten progress — they defeated USA yesterday by 29 runs. As the Afghans carry through the points from their win against the Irish, then two more wins for Ireland will ensure they finish level on points in second place after the Super Fours and their run rate can only improve against the Group B teams.
Trent Johnston, yesterday’s man of the match in the 37 runs victory over Scotland is hoping that will be the scenario.
“After that hiccup against Afghanistan, hopefully we will get another crack at them in the final and show them we’re the best Associate team,” he said.
Johnston continues to inspire Ireland with his new ball bowling. Three more wickets yesterday took his tally for the tournament to seven and with Peter Connell just one behind, for the second day in a row the opposition were down and almost out before the innings got out of the blocks.
On Wednesday, the USA lost their first five wickets in 27 balls, yesterday the Scots lost four in the first two overs and were 12 for five in the fourth. The opening bowlers were aided by some reckless Scottish batting, but that was only because they needed to reach their victory target of 137 inside 15 overs to have a chance of bettering Ireland’s run-rate and reaching the Super Fours.
The bowling was just too accurate and Connell was on a hat-trick in his first over after Frazer Watts was caught at mid-on and skipper Gavin Hamilton swung across the line and was leg before.
It got better for Ireland as Johnston had Richie Berrington and Neil McCallum both caught at slip and Ireland had taken four wickets for no runs in eight balls.
The former captain then took his third wicket in six balls when Jan Stander was caught at deep mid-wicket and everyone was anticipating an early finish.
It was not to be as Ireland failed to follow-up their stunning start. Kyle Coetzer and Gordon Drummond added 62 for the sixth wicket and Simon Smith hung around while 23 were added for the seventh. But the innings did end in a hurry, the last four wickets falling for two runs in eight balls.
The batting was lacklustre — all but Alex Cusack reached double figures but not one went on to 20. However, William Porterfield and Niall O’Brien got Ireland off to their usual fast start and when the captain was out in the eighth over the total was 60. Even the “big hitters” at the end scored only 37 in the last five overs.