Ireland defeated their bitter Celtic rivals Scotland yesterday (SUN) in Dubai to virtually assure at least a play-off slot in the Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers.
The win came at a price though, with John Mooney ruled out of the remainder of the tournament with a torn hamstring, sustained while attempting a spectacular running catch on the deep midwicket boundary.
Alex Cusack was also forced from the field with an ongoing groin injury and was rated as extremely doubtful for the clash with Uganda today (MON). If Cusack misses out, then Ireland would be left with only 12 fit players until the arrival of possible replacements.
Stuart Poynter and Ben Ackland are already in the country with MCC Young cricketers and British Universities respectively, while Niall O’Brien, axed from the squad following his decision to play in the Bangladesh Premier League, arrives on Wednesday on an MCC tour.
More likely though is that Ireland coach Phil Simmons will choose from one of his originally named replacements, with either Albert van der Merwe or Tim Murtagh the most likely candidates. With plenty of spin options already in the squad, it may be the Middlesex seamer Tim Murtagh who gets the opportunity to make his Ireland debut. He has been training in South Africa with his county ahead of the start of the English season.
This was a spirited Ireland display, showing their battling qualities, overcoming what has now become a traditional poor start. After winning the toss and batting, Paul Stirling went first ball, caught at first slip by Mommsen off Sharif, and for the second game in succession William Porterfield (4) played on to leave the Irish floundering on 8 for 2.
Alex Cusack hit four successive boundaries off Matthew Parker in a breezy 22 from just 13 balls, and from then on the momentum was with Ireland.
Ed Joyce showed he is very much the man for the big occasion with a batting masterclass, finding the gaps with great precision on the huge Dubai International Cricket Stadium, the recent venue for two Tests in the Pakistan versus England series.
Joyce top scored with an unbeaten 78 from just 58 balls to help Ireland to an above par 159 for 5. He showed he can find the boundaries as well, striking three sixes, two of those coming from the last two balls of the innings from the unfortunate Saffy Sharif.He was given good support by Gary Wilson who scored a run a ball 26 in a fifth wicket stand of 55.
Scotland’s reply didn’t start any better than Ireland’s when Trent Johnston bowled the dangerous Richie Berrington for 0 in the first over. It was fitting revenge for Johnston and the Irish side, as it was Berrington who had destroyed them as Scotland chased 321 to defeat the Irish in Edinburgh last July.
Johnston trapped Preston Mommsen lbw for 13, but it was Boyd Rankin who claimed the prized wicket of the in-form Calum MacLeod, trapping his former Warwickshire team-mate on the back foot when he had scored just 5.
Stand-in Scottish captain Kyle Coetzer rebuilt the Scotland innings in conjunction with the experienced Fraser Watts. The pair added 79 for the fourth wicket, with Coetzer striking 4 sixes and 2 fours in his 62 from 52 balls, while Watts scored 33 from 29 balls. With the required run-rate increasing to nealry 12, the pair were forced to take risks, with Watts caught on the boundary by Trent Johnston with the total on 101 in the 14th over.
Jan Stander was run out without facing a ball, and once Coetzer had been dismissed by Kevin O’Brien in his first bowl of the tournament, the result was never in any doubt. O’Brien finished with 3 for 35 and Johnston 2 for 23 to leave the final margin of victory at 17 runs.
The defeat could spell disaster for Scotland, who today face a must-win clash against the dangerous Italians, who beat Uganda to join them on six points.
Namibia were comfortable seven wicket winners over Kenya to maintain their spot at the top of Group B and now look likely to be taking on Group A leaders Afghanistan in the first preliminary final, unless they slip up in their final two games against Oman and Italy.