Belfast Telegraph

Ireland's World Cup bid suffers real blow after Windies' victory


By Ian Callender

Ireland's hopes of playing in next year's World Cup finals took a nosedive yesterday as West Indies bounced back from their opening Super Six defeat to inflict a first loss on hosts Zimbabwe with a record chase in the qualifying tournament.

Set 290 to win, West Indies survived the early loss of master blaster Chris Gayle to get home by four wickets with an over to spare. Earlier, Brendan Taylor played the innings of the tournament so far with a superb 138 in the home side's 289 all out.

The result means that Ireland are now relying on UAE, already out of contention, beating Zimbabwe on Thursday, the day before the Irish face Afghanistan in their final Super Six game. They also need West Indies to beat Scotland tomorrow, so the hurdles to reaching a fourth successive 50-over ICC World Cup are building.

One Ireland player in for the long haul is Andrew Balbirnie who has been identified as their No.3 batsman for the foreseeable future and, despite four single-figure scores in his previous four games, he compiled his second and highest one-day international century in the 25-run win over Scotland on Sunday.

His 105 in a must-win game gave the 27-year-old Dubliner much more satisfaction.

"I'm enjoying my batting, although the last week has been tough because I haven't felt out of nick but I haven't been getting scores," he said. "But on Sunday it clicked.

"Batting at three has given me more responsibility and I quite like batting for long periods and with that the runs will come."

With three more games to be played before Ireland return to action, Balbirnie refused to get involved in any predictions, only saying: "We've given ourselves a lifeline and hopefully on Friday it's back on our hands."

Today a number of the squad are going on safari as the action continues when the bottom two, UAE and Afghanistan, meet.

Belfast Telegraph

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