Ireland produced a stunning fightback to defeat Bangladesh by five runs in their final ICC World Twenty20 warm-up game at Moors Cricket Club in Colombo on Monday.
Chasing 165, Bangladesh had seemed on course for a facile win when they reached 103 for 2 in 10 overs, with Shakib Al Hasan in dominant mood.
His dismissal for 52 by Nigel Jones proved to be a turning point as wickets fell in clusters. Shakib had struck five sixes and three fours in his 23 ball half century, taking 18 off George Dockrell’s solitary over.
Kevin O’Brien (3-24) varied his pace well and in tandem with Nigel Jones (1-25) kept the pressure on Bangladesh. Still, with just 12 needed from the final two overs, The Tigers looked odds-on favourites.
However, a magnificent penultimate over from Alex Cusack saw him concede just two runs while picking up the wicket of the dangerous Mashrafe Mortaza.
Trent Johnston held his nerve to bowl an exemplary final over as Ireland sealed the five run win, in some way avenging the two last over defeats to Bangladesh in Belfast in July.
Paul Stirling was at his belligerent best in the Irish innings, as he smashed 71 from just 42 balls (five sixes, five fours). He was particularly severe on Mahmudullah, hitting him for three consecutive sixes, and 24 in total from his only over.
At 110 for one the Irish looked destined for a total approaching the 200 mark, but Stirling’s dismissal saw the run rate fall as the boundaries dried up – only three in the final nine overs, and none at all in the final five.
Ed Joyce made a stylish 39 from 36 balls (five fours), but with Kevin O’Brien and Nigel Jones failing to score, Ireland’s innings lost its impetus and they were slightly disappointed at the half way stage to have made what looked a slightly below par score of 164 for six.
It proved enough though as the Irish held their catches – including stunning efforts by Nigel Jones and Alex Cusack.
Speaking after the game, a clearly delighted Paul Stirling said: “It’s always nice to score a few runs which gives you confidence going into the tournament proper, so hopefully I’m peaking at the right time. We’re playing great cricket as a team at the minute and it’s a fantastic achievement to get four wins out of four and a massive confidence boost for the lads.”
Was Stirling thinking of emulating Garfield Sobers, Ravi Shastri, Herschelle Gibbs and Yuvraj Singh by hitting 6 sixes in an over? “I was thinking of it after the first one but it didn’t come off!”
On the Irish fightback to get the win, Stirling added:”We’ve a great team ethic and spirit, and we never know when we’re beaten.
“They were heavy favourites today going into the final ten overs, but we managed to claw it back getting wickets at vital times. We managed to scrape through although I was always confident when they needed ten from the final over with Trent (Johnston) in control.”
Ireland’s first game in the competition is against Australia on Wednesday starting in Colombo at 3:30pm (11am UK/Ireland).
At Moors Cricket Club
Ireland 164/6 (20 overs, Paul Stirling 71, Ed Joyce 39, Shakib Al Hasan 2-21, Mashrafe Mortaza 2-33) beat Bangladesh 159-9 (Shakib Al Hasan 34, Kevin O’Brien 3-24, Trent Johnston 2-25, Alex Cusack 2-27) by 5 runs.