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Ireland will open T20 showpiece with fantastic chance to progress

 

Ireland will play in the opening match of the T20 World Cup next year, following their third-place finish in the qualifying tournament which ended in Dubai on Saturday. (stock photo)
Ireland will play in the opening match of the T20 World Cup next year, following their third-place finish in the qualifying tournament which ended in Dubai on Saturday. (stock photo)

By Ian Callender

Ireland will play in the opening match of the T20 World Cup next year, following their third-place finish in the qualifying tournament which ended in Dubai on Saturday.

With Netherlands winning the final against Papua New Guinea, Ireland have avoided their nemesis in recent global tournaments and have been given a great chance of reaching the Super 12 stage alongside the top eight ranked teams.

Sri Lanka will be the opposition for Ireland on October 18 in Geelong, 50 miles south west of Melbourne, with games against Oman and PNG to follow at the same venue at two-day intervals. The top two are guaranteed another five games, spread over two weeks from Perth to Sydney.

Ireland played T20 internationals against Papua New Guinea in Australia in February 2015, winning the first two by five wickets and seven runs but losing the dead-rubber by 11 runs, so they will have nothing to fear. They beat Oman by 35 runs in the group stage of the Qualifiers in Abu Dhabi.

Netherlands, Scotland and Namibia would appear to be in a much more competitive round-robin group with Bangladesh and, again, only the top two are assured of progress.

While Ireland did not achieve captain Gary Wilson's goal of winning the tournament, he said he was "satisfied" with third place in what he described as the "highest standard in a World Cup qualifying tournament that I have seen, without doubt".

"We were not at our best throughout, but that is what you must expect from a mostly inexperienced side, apart from four or five guys," said Wilson.

"One day we were good, one day not so good and, for now, when not at our best we just have to try and close that gap.

"Our total of 135 (against Namibia in Saturday's third-place play-off) was par, because pace off the ball made it very difficult to score. To bowl them out for 108 was a pleasing performance."

Paul Stirling's 29 took him past 1,500 runs for the year - the first Ireland player to do so - and with 291 runs he was the leading run-scorer in the qualifiers and the only Irishman in the team of the tournament.

Saturday's scores: Ireland 135 (19.1 overs, A Balbirnie 46, P Stirling 25; JJ Smit 3-19, C Williams 3-34) Namibia 108 (18.2 overs, G Erasmus 51; S Singh 3-25, M Adair 2-9, B Rankin 2-17, G Delany 2-23). Ireland won by 27 runs.

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