ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier: Ireland and UAE through to last four

Josh Little Ireland

Ireland and the UAE have booked their places from Group B in the semi-final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier A, supported by Dream 11, in contrasting styles at Al Amerat on Monday.

Ireland defeated Germany by seven wickets, achieving their victory target in 13.1 overs, to boost their net run-rate (NRR) and qualify as group topper. Germany was restricted to 107/5 with only two batters managing to reach double digits.

UAE lost their concluding group match to Bahrain by two runs in a thriller but managed to advance on a better NRR after both teams finished with four points each.

Ireland also had four points but finished with a NRR of +0.991 while UAE (+0.661) and Bahrain (+0.240) came second and third respectively.

The game at the Oman Academy 2 ground between UAE and Bahrain produced some excitement around a last ball finish. UAE needed 27 to win in the final over, after Bahrain had amassed 172.

UAE’s Vriitya Aravind, who has been in excellent form in the Qualifiers, hit two fours and two sixes off Shahid Mahmood’s final over to bring the equation down to five off the last ball. Mahmood kept his cool to concede only two and ensure Bahrain got over the line.

UAE opener Muhammad Waseem was sent back cheaply and while Chirag Suri looked good for his 24-ball 26, the latter’s dismissal meant that the UAE had a mountain to climb with 138 needed in 14 overs. Aravind and Rohan Mustafa gave it a good go, forging a 91-run fourth-wicket partnership to keep the UAE in the game.

Mustafa made 41 but it was the young Aravind, who looked elegant and dominant, with a scintillating 52-ball 84 – a knock that included 6 fours and 5 sixes to take the game till the last ball.

For Bahrain, captain Sarfaraz Ali stepped up with the ball too, picking up two crucial back-to-back wickets in the 19th over to cripple the UAE run chase. Imran Anwar did the same in the 18th over. After winning the toss and electing to bat first, Bahrain posted 172/5. David Mathias top scored with an unbeaten 46 off 35 deliveries.

Captain Ali (32) and Umer Imtiaz (42) took early command with a 50-run partnership. Ali was the aggressor in this stand and Bahrain maintained a brisk run-rate. After his dismissal, Imtiaz took over for the remainder of his innings. He shared a 41-run partnership with Mathias that allowed the newcomer to get comfortable in the crease. Both Haider Butt (35 off 17) and a well-set Mathias exploded in the final five overs, exploiting wayward bowling to make 68 runs.

Ahmed Raza, UAE Captain said: “With Aravind playing so well, we still believed till the last ball that it (run chase) was possible. If the last shot too had beaten the fielder, it would have gone to a Super Over that I think would have been an ideal finish to this match. Congratulations to Bahrain though, they played amazingly well in this game and in the tournament as well.”

Commenting on Aravind’s performance, Raza added, “Aravind backs his skills and shots regardless of the pressure. Even if the opponents are making some noises, he stays in his own zone. He takes the game deep. He did that against Ireland and he did the same today. Gutted that he couldn’t take us over the line but overall, we had a pretty poor day in the field. Even with the bat we had a few lapses that must be corrected before the semi-finals. Hopefully, our bad days are out of the way, and we go again strongly tomorrow.”

Sarfaraz Ali, Bahrain Captain said, “Definitely disappointed that we could not make the semi-finals but I’m happy with the win today.”

Bowlers excel for Ireland

Aided by a disciplined bowling performance, Ireland openers, Paul Stirling and skipper Andy Balbirnie, took control of the run-chase with an authoritative performance at the Oman Academy 1 ground. Both the batters smashed boundaries with ease as they raced to an opening stand of 67 in 7.5 overs. Balbirnie’s 32 came off 21 and Stirling’s 34 off 27 ensured that the team maintained a healthy net run-rate (NRR) from the start.

Germany’s Muslim Yar claimed the wicket of Stirling and George Delaney after Balbirnie fell to his German counterpart Venkat Ganesan in the eighth over. Harry Tector and Lorcan Tucker then steered their side to win in 13.1 overs. Earlier, all five of the Ireland bowlers picked up wickets as Germany posted 107/7.

Left-arm pacer Josh Little, who was named the Player of the Match, provided the early breakthroughs to give his team a perfect start. Bowling in the right areas, Little and his bowling partner, Mark Adair, put the pressure on the Germany openers. Little had Talha Khan leg before in the fourth over and then picked the wicket of in-form Justin Broad to finish his opening three-over spell with 2/9. Broad had hit a half-century in the previous game against UAE. Germany batters struggled against the pace and there was no respite when the spinners were introduced after the Powerplay.

Andy McBrine and Simi Singh operated in tandem and struck soon. Michael Richardson fell to McBrine and at halfway stage Germany were 38/3. Dylan Blignaut provided some impetus to the total with a couple of clean hits, including two maximums. However, he went for far too many in an attempt to accelerate the declining run-rate.

One such attempt off Singh found Harry Tector on the boundary to bring an end to his cameo of 22.

Germany’s woes deepened as Shoaib Khan was adjudged leg before to McBrine on the next ball of the new over to leave the team at 67/5.

Craig Young claimed Dieter Klien and Adair took the wicket of Fayaz Khan an over later. Faisal Mubashir kept the scoreboard ticking with some impressive strokes around the park.

Mubashir stayed unbeaten on 45 off 40, which included one six and two fours. He was instrumental in Germany crossing the 100-run mark as he hit a six and a four for a 14-run penultimate over off Adair.

Little and McBrine picked two wickets each while Singh, Adair and Young accounted for the other three batters. Ireland players wore black sleeve bands in honour of former Ireland player Podge Hughes, who passed away two days ago.

Andy Balbirnie, Captain Ireland said: “We were really good today, we set ourselves the task at the toss, and our bowlers put it in good areas – there was a bit in it for the bowlers, and they bowled tightly. It was a really a complete performance and we’re starting to get it together at the right end of the tournament. I think the win against Bahrain got us up and running – we tend to play better the longer a tournament goes. There was good buzz around this morning, the guys knew we had to win two games to reach a World Cup, and we’ve got rid of one of those and are now in a semi-final.

“All of our bowlers performed well today – we have guys like [Curtis] Campher and [Barry] McCarthy on the bench who could do a job as well – we’re happy with where our bowling is at, but it means nothing unless we turn up and do the same thing tomorrow.”

Venkat Ganesan, Captain Germany said: “Ireland outplayed us in all departments of the game. They reserved the best against us. The bowlers gave little to us and we could not put up a challenging total.

“We will take lot of positives from today’s match. It is all about learning while playing teams like Ireland.”

Reports supplied by the ICC Media Zone.