Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie described yesterday’s victory over South Africa in the World Cup Super League as “one of my proudest moments as an Irish cricketer”.
It is the first time Ireland have beaten a top-eight side at home in a one-day international and was set up by a superb batting display when the first four partnerships all added at least 60 and was backed up by the bowlers who took the last eight wickets for 89 runs; all six finishing with at least one in the wickets column.
Ireland scored 95 off the last eight overs despite losing Balbirnie in the 41st over, immediately after completing his seventh ODI century, with Harry Tector hitting four sixes in compiling his highest score for Ireland and George Dockrell blasting 45 off 23 balls with five fours and two sixes.
It was scintillating batting in front of a Malahide crowd and immediately put the South Africans under pressure.
Craig Young and Josh Little each took a wicket in their opening spells – Little with his first ball – but a second-wicket stand of 108, the highest of the match, between Janneman Malan and Rassie van der Dussen threatened to take the game away from Ireland.
But then the fightback began and both batsmen were dismissed in successive overs by spinners Dockrell and Andy McBrine and the pressure to match Ireland’s scoring rate in the closing stages proved too much as the batsmen repeatedly found the fielders who did not drop a catch all day.
In contrast, Paul Stirling had been dropped twice by the time he scored 10, Tector was dropped first ball and Balbirnie was missed on 74.
As Proteas skipper Temba Bavuma admitted, it cost his side the match.
Balbirnie, though, was able to salute a superb all-round performance.
“To get four big partnerships in a row was brilliant, especially after our performance in the Dutch series (last month) and it was one of our better displays with the ball,” he said.
“Harry’s knock deserves great credit, he has been building up to that recently and that’s two 50s in his last three innings.
“I’m thrilled to score a century and it’s always more sweeter when we win.
“I knew 290 was a good score, but it is a fast-scoring ground and I knew it would be tough taking 10 wickets, but we took our chances in the field.
“We now have our first win against South Africa and it would be unprecedented to get a series win.”
Ireland were dealt a huge blow before the toss when William Porterfield was ruled out with a recurrence of the finger injury which threatened his participation in Sunday’s first game but Balbirnie promoted himself to opener and “had no hesitation” in asking McBrine to replace him at No.3.
It proved the perfect decision at the start of what turned out to be a perfect day.