|European Division 1: Dublin, July 2008|
Ireland overcome the rain - and Scotland
The net run rate situation meant that Ireland had to beat Scotland on Thursday to retain their European Division 1 title, and win it they did, despite the dreadful weather.
Heavy overnight rain and persistent showers during the morning delayed the start until 14:15, and by then the game had been reduced to 36 overs. William Porterfield won the toss and put Scotland in, thereby giving his side a crucial advantage.
Yet the Scots got away to a great start, Gavin Hamilton and Ryan Watson putting on 60 in 8.3 overs before Hamilton was bowled by Alex Cusack, who had replaced the expensive Peter Connell, for 21.
André Botha, on for Kevin O’Brien at the other end, soon dismissed Qasim Sheikh, but Watson and Colin Smith got the total up to 91 before Kyle McCallan came into the attack.
Watson, who had brought up his half-century a couple of overs earlier, danced down the pitch to the spinner’s second ball and was stumped, stranded well out of his ground, by Niall O'Brien. The Scottish captain made exactly 50, off 44 balls with six fours and a six.
Almost immediately, a further shower drove the players from the field, and a short delay led to the loss of another over.
Smith followed the same way in McCallan’s next over after the resumption, and when Neil McCallum was caught behind off Connell in the one after that, Scotland had lost three wickets in eighteen balls and were suddenly 100 for five.
This put Ireland in the box seat, and they never relaxed their position thereafter.
Connell added Fraser Watts’s scalp, and McCallan completed his seven-over stint by trapping Majid Haq leg-before to finish with three for 10.
John Blain and Gordon Drummond pushed the ball around in the closing overs to get the total up to 150, and the innings closed on 152 for nine.
The Duckworth/Lewis calculation added one run to the par score, so Ireland were chasing 154 from 35 overs.
Blain and Dewald Nel started well, and in the fifth over Blain broke through Porterfield’s defences and Ireland were 19 for one.
Two overs later the rain intervened again, and this time the break was long enough to cut a further eight overs off the Irish innings, reducing the target to 128 from 27. The Scottish task had already been difficult enough; with 101 now needed from 20 overs and nine wickets in hand, it became well-nigh impossible.
Gary Wilson was batting with great confidence, and although Ritchie Berrington bowled Niall O’Brien soon after the resumption, Botha now imposed his commanding presence on events.
Watson switched his bowlers with startling frequency, but Wilson and Botha added 77 in 13 overs and never looked in any real difficulty.
Wilson brought up his first ODI half-century with 16 still needed, but in Haq’s next over, with Ireland nine short of their target, he lofted the Scottish spinner to John Blain at long on.
Botha was on 47 at this point, but Kevin O’Brien denied him a well-deserved fifty by smacking Drummond for a four and a six to give Ireland the win.
It had been a great team effort, produced when the chips were down, and the Irish record of twelve European Championship matches without defeat is testimony to their dominance at this level.