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World Twenty20 Qualifiers: Porterfield to stay back up top for Ireland

By Ian Callender

William Porterfield will open the batting with Paul Stirling in Saturday's World Twenty20 Qualifier semi-final, even if Niall O'Brien is fit.

The captain confirmed that yesterday, in the aftermath of the dramatic final day of group games when Ireland leapt from third place, with victory over Jersey, to first and automatic qualification for the finals in India next year after the afternoon defeats for Namibia and Papua New Guinea.

"We gave it a crack (O'Brien opening with Stirling and Porterfield dropping down to No 3) but we are happy with the balance of the side. There was aggression in the first six overs without much result so moving forward we simplified it to win the powerplay (the first six overs) with good calculated cricket. If we do that in the remaining games we will not be far away (from winning the tournament)," said Porterfield.

It was hardly coincidence that the long-term partnership favoured by Ireland produced the highest opening stand of the tournament (44) at their first attempt on Sunday - not one had reached double figures or lasted longer than 13 balls in the first five games - and following the shock defeats by PNG and Hong Kong which left their semi-final hopes in danger, Ireland rejigged the batting order and got it right, when it mattered.

"Myself and Stirlo worked well in previous competitions. Niall and Stirlo didn't really come off. And that's the way we will go moving forward with me up top," added the Ireland skipper who also confirmed that John Mooney was due to go in at No 6 on Sunday, if required.

There was widespread criticism that Mooney went in after Stuart Poynter and Stuart Thompson in the game against Hong Kong and although the man who famously hit the winning runs against England in the 2011 ICC World Cup thumped 16 off the last over it was too late to avoid a humiliating loss.

"John Boy is striking the ball cleanly and we spoke about it, and against Jersey he was padded up ready to go. The more balls he faces and the more balls people in nick face the better," added Porterfield.

O'Brien, meanwhile, will almost certainly miss the rest of the tournament. Although he has been advised to rest his twisted knee for four-five days, Leicestershire, his employers, have suggested seven to 10 days which will take him to Wednesday week, coincidentally the date of the Midland county's first game after the qualifying tournament. No prizes for guessing which advice the wicket-keeper/batsmen will take, especially with talks due on a new contract.

The other key to Ireland's victory on Sunday was the bowling of Paul Stirling, who took three for 16, in only his second bowl of the tournament.

The captain though defended his decision. "Stirlo hasn't been required, the seamers have been bowling so well and I haven't used George Dockrell that much either. It can be a headache trying to get it (the combination) right but everyone buys into it. With five seamers and two spinners, three if you include Andrew Balbirnie, it shows our strength."

Meanwhile, Ireland will find out their semi-final opponents this afternoon.

They will play the winners of the game between Namibia and the Netherlands (2.15pm) with Scotland awaiting the winners of this morning's game at Malahide between Hong Kong and Afghanistan (10am).

Belfast Telegraph


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