|European Championships: Northern Ireland, July 2002|
Ireland v Italy: 22 July
IT WAS almost 'arriverdercci Ireland' in the European Championships yesterday but they got out of a horrible mess to set up an unconvincing 28 runs victory over Italy. If ECB England win today, when the Euro roadshow heads to the North West, Ireland are the only team who can prevent them clinching the championships but to do that they must beat Holland - and it will need a big improvement at Eglinton today if that first objective is to be achieved.
Without batsman Peter Gillespie - ruled out of the rest of the tournament by injury - Ireland went into the match with seven bowlers and it was lucky seven for Derek Heasley. When he came on in the 28th over, Italy were charging towards the Ireland total of 231 with a degree of comfort, Alessandro Bonora and Samantha Ketipe adding 104 for the third wicket. Only Heasley's Glendermott team-mate Gary Neely, who took two early wickets, had looked like removing the Italian batsmen until Derek struck in his third over, having Ketipe leg before. Even then Italy needed only 79 off 18 overs but Ireland maintained the pressure, Paul Mooney, after five overs to forget at the start, came back superbly to take one for 14 in his second spell and the one wicket was that of Bonora for a potentially match winning 69 off 118 balls.
He received no support, however, and the rest of the innings was the Neely show, as he yorked Valerio Zuppiroli and Lorenzo Gatti with successive deliveries and he deservedly claimed his first five wicket-haul for Ireland to finish the match with 10 balls remaining.
The Ireland batting was little better than their bowling in the first half of the innings as they slumped to 108 for five. Jason Molins gave a gentle catch to cover, Dom Joyce for the second day in a row was out without offering a stroke and Peter Davy also played on after another cameo was cut off in its prime. He has looked the best batsman all week and has yet to reach 20.
Andrew White, looking more comfortable by the day at the top of the innings, was caught at slip but Paul Mooney is too high at No 6 and was a third victim of the the leg spinner.
Kyle McCallan was the batsman who turned the game Ireland's way. He brought up his first 50 for Ireland in over two years, with a brilliant pull for six, and went on to make 75 - the last 25 coming off just 11 balls. It was his highest score behind his two centuries as an opener. With Heasley he added 89 - the same number of runs that came off the last 10 overs - and it was Ireland's only substantial partnership of the innings which benefitted from some very poor fielding.
Although the Italians defeated the Dutch at Comber on Saturday, Ireland will be expecting a much tougher assignment today and strike bowler Adrian McCoubrey will be welcomed back with open arms.