Belfast Telegraph

O’Brien not to blame for Ireland cricketers' collapse

By Ian Callender

The Ireland players didn’t wait for the second match of the quadrangular tournament at the SSC ground in Colombo yesterday. Maybe it was just as well.

Sri Lanka A, their opponents in today’s final game of the tournament, were strutting their stuff and looking very impressive for the second successive game and William Porterfield’s side knew they would have to be at their best to get one over their unbeaten hosts.

On Monday, the full members’ A team restricted Canada to 93 for six in their 20 overs on their way to a nine wickets victory and yesterday they took eight wickets while conceding only 106 to beat Afghanistan by 69 runs. Opening batsman Mahela Udawate, who didn’t even play in the first match, came in and scored 103 not out.

In contrast, only two Ireland players have scored half centuries in 13 T20 internationals, Andre Botha with 62 not out in the first and Niall O’Brien with exactly 50 yesterday in Ireland’s narrow defeat to Canada.

For four and half overs yesterday, Ireland’s victory target of 177 was plain sailing as O’Brien and captain William Porterfield plundered seven fours and a six but, as has happened so often in the past, wickets fell in clusters and they came up agonisingly short.

On an excellent batting track and fast outfield, Ireland were coasting at 89 for one after nine overs but, 20 balls later, it was 105 for four when O’Brien was leg before, two balls after reaching his personal landmark. Gary Wilson and Andre Botha got the innings back on track with 35 from 21 balls but not only did both batsmen fall in the 17th over, next ball Trent Johnston hit a full toss straight to long-off and Ireland were 143 for seven.

The batting depth is impressive, however, and John Mooney and Andrew White added another 27 to edge Ireland closer but instead of settling for a single off the fourth ball of the last over to leave Mooney to hit seven off the last two balls, he went back for a suicidal second and was run out. Ireland scored two off the last two balls and had much to mull over.

National coach Phil Simmons insisted O’Brien shouldn’t take too much of the blame.

“Ideally we want batsmen to go on but we had enough batting left to chase that total. I thought we didn’t assess the last three or four overs well enough. On that outfield 10-12 runs an over was not out of the question,” he said.

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