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World Twenty20: Irish run woes are facing major scrutiny by selectors

By Ian Callender

The Ireland selectors will have a major review of the World Twenty20 qualifying tournament before they chose the 15-man squad for the first stage of the finals in India next March.

It follows the below-par third place finish, confirmed by a wash-out of their scheduled game against Hong Kong in Malahide yesterday with Ireland demoting the emerging Asian nation to fourth place on a better run rate over the course of the tournament, even though Hong Kong won the group match between the teams.

The higher ranking could also prove illusory for Ireland because although the groups for the finals have still to be confirmed.

Based on previous tournaments, Ireland could be in with Bangladesh, the Netherlands and Oman, with only one team going through to join the top eight Full Members.

The qualifying final yesterday afternoon between Scotland and the Dutch was also abandoned without a ball bowled while the trophy was shared.

Scotland will go through as the No 1 team, again because of a better run rate.

And their reward is likely to be in the much easier group in the first phase of the finals, alongside Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Afghanistan.

So much for finishing third, rather than fourth! Ireland went into the event as No 1 seeds and winners of the last two editions of the competition but their batting consistently under-performed and the bowlers were responsible for the four wins from seven games.

So while the bowling attack can expect to head to India unchanged - although there will be a big difference between Indian pitches and here in Ireland - the batsmen will come under the closest scrutiny.

Only three batsmen had a strike rate higher than 100 (a run-a-ball).

Kevin O'Brien, Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie, but there were 24 players in the tournament who scored quicker than O'Brien and 50 better than Balbirnie.

Captain William Porterfield and Niall O'Brien both sneaked into the top 60 but Gary Wilson (strike rate 82) was the only other Ireland player above 50.

Porterfield was Ireland's highest run scorer with 190, putting him in 10th place with Paul Stirling down in 22nd and Balbirnie 26th. Kevin O'Brien, one of Ireland's big guns in this format of the game, was way down in 60th place, his highest score just 33 in Saturday's semi-final defeat by the Netherlands.

That game proved an accurate barometer of Ireland's performance as, for the sixth time (in seven games) they failed to post 130.

"We didn't have enough runs on the board," admitted Porterfield.

"We went about it with a lot better intent, but just fell away again. There were probably four or five overs there when we have scored less than four off them and that kills you in this format, so we haven't got a competitive score.

"We were 70-2 off 11 so we were in a good position.

"We just lost wickets and in the overs we did lose wickets we didn't score enough runs and that just built pressure.

"You could find 16 runs anywhere and that would have got us up to 145 and that would have been a winning score," said Porterfield , who also apologised to the spectators who turned up at Malahide on Saturday - a crowd of 2,500 the biggest outside a game against England and Australia.

"It was a fantastic crowd and we let them down.

"That was as disappointing for me as not reaching the final.

"The seedings don't bother me, they are what they are."

Belfast Telegraph


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