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Shameful defeat a real blow for Irish

By Ian Callender

There's always one and Ireland will be hoping that this is the only one. The team struggle to go through any tournament unbeaten and it happened again yesterday as Papua New Guinea stunned William Porterfield's side in their fourth game of the World Twenty20 qualifiers at Stormont and sent them to an embarrassing two-wickets defeat.

It means that Ireland's destiny in Group A is now out of their hands and if PNG win their remaining three games, against Nepal, Namibia and the USA, then Ireland will have to play two extra matches next week to confirm their place in India next year. Only the group winners qualify automatically for the finals.

It is three years since Ireland were bowled out in a Twenty20 game and it is 39 innings since they even lost nine wickets. When last man Alex Cusack not only survived the last over but scored 13 of the 15 runs off it, it looked as if Ireland had given themselves a fighting chance of making it four straight wins.

When the Irish bowlers - the stars of the tournament so far - then took five wickets for 22 runs, to leave PNG needing 30 off the last three overs with just two wickets in hand, it looked as if Cusack's runs would be the difference.

But anything the Clontarf all-rounder could do, Norman Vanua could do even better and, with 27 needed off 14 balls, the 21-year-old bowler finished the match with seven balls to spare, Mooney bearing the brunt, being hit for three sixes in the penultimate over.

Porterfield, who scored an unbeaten 57, though, insisted the game was lost in the first 20 overs, as not one batsman stayed with him for longer than six overs.

"The sun was out, it is a tired pitch, and we knew 130-140 would have won us the game but we didn't do it. We didn't apply ourselves, it's a mental thing, not a skills thing and that's what lost us the game," he said.

"After the Namibia game (the opener last Friday), we knew the ball would stay low, and it was going to be a scrap, but we wanted to play pretty Twenty20 cricket and we got out-skilled. It's as simple as that and the lads just have to freshen up and come back for the Hong Kong game on Friday."

At least they have a new pitch to play on because the tournament moves to Dublin, with Ireland's remaining group games at Malahide tomorrow afternoon and against Jersey on Sunday morning.

Niall O'Brien is a fitness concern for the games as he twisted his knee and although he batted - for four overs - he complained of a hamstring problem and Andy McBrine was a substitute fielder.

Tyrone Kane, recalled in place of Craig Young, justified his inclusion with three wickets in eight balls to start and end the PNG collapse but rather than continue with him at the City end, Porterfield turned to Mooney for the 19th over - the wrong decision.

But as Porterfield repeated, "the bowling wasn't the issue, the batsmen were not up for the scrap". Not for the first time, Ireland must win a qualifying tournament the hard way.

World T20 qualifiers: Group A: Jersey 87 (17.3 overs) USA 88-5 (14 overs). USA won by 5 wickets. Nepal 109 (20 overs) Hong Kong 110-5 (19.1 overs). Hong Kong won by 5 wickets. Group B: Oman 144-7 Afghanistan 104. Oman won by 40 runs. Kenya 147-5 (R Patel 50) UAE 105 (17.2 overs). Kenya won by 42 runs.

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