|European Championships: Northern Ireland, July 2002|
Ireland v Scotland: 21 July
PETER Gillespie is, barring an overnight miracle, out of Ireland's last three games in the European Championships. The Strabane batsman pulled his hamstring, after running a quick single in yesterday's eight wickets defeat by Scotland at Wallace Park, and is expected to be on the sidelines for another extended spell. Gillespie was out for almost a month in the five weeks between the international against West Indies A and Ireland's opening Euro tie on Saturday with a hamstring pull in his other leg.
The injury to Ireland's in-form batsman was the final straw on the rain day when nothing went right for the hosts. Even the sun shone as Ireland, after winning the toss, were bowled out for 103 and then Greig Williamson, one of Ireland's oldest adversaries, knocked off 54 of the winning runs at exactly a run a ball to set up a comfortable victory. His most outrageous shot was a cross-batted six, off Gary Neely, back over the bowler's head and when he brought up his 50, in the 14th over, such was his dominance the total was only 70.
With such a low score to defend, captain Jason Molins was on a hiding to nothing but Adrian McCoubrey justifed his inclusion with a four-over spell which went for just nine runs. At the other end, however, Williamson took a liking to Paul Mooney as his five overs disappeared for 23 and then Neely came in for similar treatment as the batsman's confidence soared. Kyle McCallan, to his credit, put on the breaks and in the best possible way by taking wickets. He had failed to take one in his last five matches, in which he bowled 38 overs, but he ended the worst run of his international career with the prize scalp of Williamson in his second over.
Two overs later Dom Rigby was caught at mid-wicket by his namesake Dom Joyce - the only two ducks in the match were posted by players called Dom and batting at No 3 - but Irish hopes that Scotland would cave in like they did the previous evening against ECB England at Comber, faded fast. Lightning rarely strikes twice and certainly not on successive days.
McCallan was denied a third wicket when Niall O'Brien missed stumping Colin Smith but the game was won in the 27th over with Doug Lockhart unbeaten on 23 and not even the hint of a boundary.
Aside from Williamson's nine, boundaries were hard to come by on a slow outfield but Ireland should not be too hard on themselves for batting first. Scotland would have done exactly the same but, in truth it is doubtful if the Irish bowlers would have got as much assistance as Mike Hendrick's well-drilled attack.
It was not just coincidence that Ireland's strongest bowling line-up was when Hendrick was National Coach. He is doing the same job at Scotland and yesterday his former side had no answer. From ball one, for the second day in a row, the Scottish bowlers found the right areas and the home batsmen, caught in the headlights, froze. Kevin Thomson conceded just six runs from his first six overs and with Hoffman getting through the defence of the captain and Joyce, given out not playing a stroke, Ireland's depth in batting was sure to be tested. However, with the pressure on, the support bowlers did not relax their grip and the middle order batsmen found it no easier to deal with the excellent line and, in particular, length.
It was the 17th over before Ireland found the boundary, Peter Davy dispatching a a loose delivery in Craig Wright's first over but almost immediately after hitting his second, a beautiful shot off his legs to the pavilion, Davy got carried away and reached too far outside off stump to give Smith the first of three catches behind the stumps. By this time Andrew White was already back in the dressing room, trapped in front by a Williamson seamer, but the mortal blow came halfway through the innings. Kyle McCallan played a ball straight to the cover fielder and called for a run - that's how desperate it was getting - and while Gillespie made it home, he collapsed in agony. The physio and the coach both came onto the field and all three left together. Paul Mooney replaced Gillespie but McCallan next to go, beaten by one that kept low and Mooney followed four overs later to a ball that only just carried.
At 67 for six, Ireland were in a quandary whether to bat out the overs and go for quick runs. In the end they did neither. Derek Heasley gave two chances before he was caught on the mid-wicket boundary and Niall O'Brien, after scoring his first boundary - a cheeky reverse sweep off the off spinner Majid Khan - had to give second best to the experience of Thompson who returned to bowl him behind his legs. Gillespie came back at the fall of the seventh wicket, having to play everything from the crease and Scotland captain Wright cleverly brought on slow bowlers at both ends. Peter failed to survive Ryan Watson's first over. When opening bowler Paul Hoffman came back, Gary Neely was out for the first time in a one-day international leaving Adrian McCoubrey unbeaten with 19 balls unused.
Birrell's major decision last night was with whom to replace Gillespie and McCoubrey will also sit out today's game against Italy at Comber. After Conor Armstrong's below-par performance against Denmark, Ricky McDaid is favourite to take the pace bowling role and, depending on whether Ireland want a third spinner or another seamer, Jordan McGonigle or Armstrong will complete the team.