Belfast Telegraph

World Cricket League: Ireland in mood to rule World

By Ian Callender

Ireland hit the ground running in yesterday’s World League opener in Rotterdam with the almost perfect performance to dismiss the challenge of Kenya.

The Africans are, along with Ireland, the only Associate nation in the world ODI rankings table but there was never any danger of Kenya closing the gap. Indeed, Ireland stretched it in some style, winning by seven wickets with more than 10 overs to spare.

Astonishingly, Alex Cusack received the man of the match award for taking two wickets and finishing 59 not out but even he would admit that Ireland’s top man was Paul Stirling.

The opening batsman gave up the chance of scoring a century with an extravagant pull to the fielder at deep mid-wicket, but for 36 overs he had entertained the onlookers — well, obviously everyone except the match referee, who was also the MoM adjudicator — in a 106-ball innings of 87.

Admittedly, Stirling was running out of time when he played his last shot — Ireland were just nine runs short of victory — but that was only because the bowlers had exceeded their recent high standard by giving the batsman a victory target of only 164. The last eight wickets fell for 60 runs in 16 overs as every bowler that captain Trent Johnston turned to proved to have a golden arm.

And all this after Ireland had to make a late change to their starting line-up, Phil Eaglestone sustaining a side strain at the end of the warm-up and having to be replaced by Nigel Jones. Surprisingly, Albert van der Merwe was overlooked, twice, but the selectors’ faith in George Dockrell was rewarded.

The 17-year-old has struggled to find a steady line and length post-examinations, but after another uncertain start he conceded less than three an over off his next nine and also claimed the wicket of Kenya top scorer Alex Obanda.

Jones did not let his captain down either, taking a wicket in the second of his three overs while John Mooney finished with his best ODI figures since taking three England wickets at Stormont four years ago.

Johnston justified his decision to field first with seven accurate overs as well as the wicket of Maurice Ouma but he also received support from Kevin O’Brien who conceded five singles in his first four overs.

James Hall was caught at slip in the ninth over, but one of Johnston’s requests as captain was to have Cusack coming in at No 3.

Player of the tournament at the World Twenty20 qualifiers, Johnston sees no reason why Cusack cannot transfer his free-scoring to the ODI arena.

Ireland go into tomorrow’s grudge match against Afghanistan in great heart and a second win will put Ireland well on their way to retaining their World League title.

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