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World Twenty20 Qualifiers: Niall O'Brien a real force as Ireland sweep up at Stormont

By Ian Callender

It was men against boys at Stormont yesterday as Ireland completed a hat-trick of victories at the World Twenty20 Qualifiers, Nepal their hapless victims in an eight-wickets win.

Nepal were bowled out for 53, and although the reply was delayed for half an hour by rain, it was still all over before 5pm, Ireland knocking off the runs in just eight overs.

On only 10 previous occasions in Ireland's history - 872 matches - have they dismissed opponents for a lower total and only four of those have been since 1900, with the famous demolition of West Indies for 25 at Sion Mills in 1969 the all-time low.

Ideally, Ireland would have liked to have won without losing a wicket but little Sompal Kami bustled in and with the ball skidding off the pitch, Niall O'Brien chopped on in his first over and Paul Stirling missed with a pull shot, with the scores tied.

Kevin O'Brien, however, needed only one ball to finish the match and moments later he was receiving the man of the match award having completed his four-over spell for eight runs and three wickets gave him his best figures in Twenty20 cricket.

Indeed, four of the five bowlers used by William Porterfield finished with career bests in the shortest format, as Stuart Thompson claimed his first three-wicket haul for three years, Craig Young took his first wicket in a T20 international and John Mooney's two for seven from his two overs was another PB.

Kevin O'Brien admitted conditions helped the home side and only widened the already big gap between the professionals and their amateur opponents.

"The wicket had a tinge of green but we bowled a lot better than they did, were more consistent and utilised the conditions. But it is important we continue to hit good areas," he said.

"I'm always keen to bowl, especially in T20s when the batsmen are looking to score. It can go one way or the other, either take a couple of wickets for nothing or get hit round the ground and today it came off for me."

The Dubliner, Ireland's most capped player - he was playing his 245th game - was on a hat-trick in his third over but he failed to make the new batsman play so failed to cap his spell with the perfect one-two-three.

Alex Cusack made the breakthrough with the last ball of the third over and only one partnership lasted longer as the Ireland bowlers continued in the form they had shown in the first two games.

Encouragingly, Young finally got among the wickets in his 11th over, in his fourth T20 match for Ireland, and Thompson enjoyed bowling on the pitch, getting good carry, and was rewarded with an lbw and two catches to Gary Wilson.

The Surrey professional is another loving this tournament. That is now 10 catches in four matches for the wicket-keeper.

Ireland will now enjoy the rest day, in pole position in Group A, and come back refreshed tomorrow morning against Papua New Guinea.

Other result: USA 113-8 Namibia 116-3 (12.5 overs, G Snyman 62). Namibia won by 7 wickets. Hong Kong v PNG and Afghanistan v Kenya - abandoned. Tomorrow: Stormont: IRELAND v PNG (10am); Nepal v Hong Kong (2.15pm). Bready: USA v Jersey (10am).

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