Belfast Telegraph

Ireland cricket team tails off when it matterrs

By Ian Callender

Ireland continue to impress on the big stage but they still cannot maintain their form for a whole match.

Ten months ago, they let England off the hook at Stormont, before going down by just three runs when the Ireland innings was reduced to 20 overs. Yesterday, at Clontarf, they threatened to produce their greatest ever performance when, in reply to Australia’s 231 for nine, they were 80 for no wicket after just 11 overs.

But, not for the first time, Irish wickets fell in clusters, the first three for six runs, and the next six for 19, a collapse which “shouldn’t happen”, according to Ireland captain William Porterfield.

“When these occasions come along we have to put in the performances and show the world what we can do. For 70 overs of that game we did. Now we have to do it for 100 overs and not let up.

“You can't afford to lose wickets in bunches against teams like this because they will come down on you and crush you like they did here,” said Porterfield, whose opening partnership with Paul Stirling set a standard which their team-mates could not emulate.

“I wouldn’t say they panicked but they must have been feeling the pinch at some stage when we were 80 for none. We had them on the back foot, it was ours to lose from there and we let it slip.”

All-rounder James Hopes, who masterminded Ireland’s downfall, taking five wickets for six runs in 34 balls to win the RSA man of the match award, admitted the world champions were worried.

“I think they needed 150 and they were only two down and we were thinking they only had to go at less than four an over, and if they bat to the end they were going to win the game,” he said.

“That made it pretty simple in our eyes that we had to bowl them out, and in the end I think the score showed that if the Irish did bat for 50 overs they would have won the game. (They were bowled out 39 runs short with eight overs unused).”

But Hopes had encouragement for Ireland.

“I think for them to get better they're going to have to play the bigger teams more than every four years at the ICC [World Cup]. But they’re going well and it’s a slow process; if you go back 30 years you had Sri Lanka who struggled for 15 years before coming through. The ICC is learning from that and they’re going to give the Irish every chance to establish themselves before they throw them to the dogs.

“Every time they play a full member country they're not disgracing themselves, they're putting on a good show and giving teams a good run.”

Off the field, though Ireland are counting the cost, for with Andre Botha ruled out with a stress fracture of the back, Trent Johnston yesterday joined the injury list (bruised right thumb). He will have an MRI scan at the start of the week.

Meanwhile, with Surrey first choice keeper Stephen Davies called up to play for the England Lions, the county will recall Gary Wilson and he seems certain to miss the entire six-match World League when Ireland’s No 1 Associate ranking goes on the line.

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