Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Cricket

Ireland on a roll as lethal Balbirnie wallops the US

By Ian Callender

Ireland go into back to back games in the World Twenty20 qualifers with the momentum of a second straight win which puts them top of the Group A table for the first time.

A 46 runs victory over the United States was as comfortable as it sounds and sets them up for this afternoon's game, back at Stormont, against Nepal (2.15pm) with the bowlers continuing the good form from the first match win over Namibia on Friday and more batsmen getting to the middle and showing off the squad's depth.

Andrew Balbirnie was man of the match after top scoring with 44 and rescuing Ireland from the "small bit of pressure" of 57 for four to 117 for six at the start of the 19th over.

It got even better for tournament co-hosts with the arrival of John Mooney who proceeded to hit three fours and a six in his seven balls to take Ireland to a 'par' total of 146.

"We did well in the last five overs and, with the bowlers we have, we were fairly comfortable with that total, but we are always striving to be better," said Balbirnie, who is looking forward to today's game more than most after scoring 70 against Nepal for Middlesex II a couple of weeks ago.

"They have quite skilled players, a couple of decent left arm spinners and middle order batsmen, but we are focusing on our own game and we know if the 11 players out there perform to their best we will beat everyone we play," Balbirnie added.

"It's a big tournament for momentum and to get two wins in three days is huge and it's nice to contribute. Our strength is our batting, we have world class players in the top three and I'm just happy to come in and do a repair or a job at the end. I'm fairly adaptable to that situation."

Balbirnie performed both roles yesterday after the new opening pair of Niall O'Brien and Paul Stirling were dismissed inside four overs and William Porterfield and Kevin O'Brien, like his brother out to a rash shot, were also back in the pavilion before halfway. But Balbirnie dominated stands with Gary Wilson and Stuart Thompson, hitting four fours and a six, and Mooney's cameo effectively put them out of sight.

Ireland were helped by the Americans bowling five no balls - four of them in the last four overs - which result in free-hits in the helter-skelter of T20 cricket and, in all, they cost 13 runs.

To their credit, the USA were seven runs ahead of Ireland after 12 overs, but three wickets in the next over, two of them to run-outs, left them eight down and it was only a matter of time before Ireland made it two wins out of two.

Bready's Craig Young came in for his first tournament game, in place of Tyrone Kane, and although he was the only bowler not to take a wicket, the captain praised his contribution.

"He went for extra pace and that can be very useful when he has that control, and if he is also doing a little bit off the pitch it makes him harder to get away. All credit to him after getting left out in the first game and coming back; it shows where we are at as a squad," said Porterfield.

"Stuart Thompson also got four overs under his belt, and I would have liked to get Kev more involved - he has bowled only one over in the two games - but as long as we are winning we are happy."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph