Ireland set the standard
Ireland have set the standard for the rest to follow in the World Cup Qualifying tournament here in South Africa.
The cream rose to the top as the No 1 Associate team crushed Scotland, supposedly one of their main rivals, by seven wickets with 74 balls to spare.
With four county professionals at the top of the order they demolished a Scotland attack which will need a vast improvement in tricky group games against Namibia, today, and Canada if they are to have a straightforward passage into the Super Eights. On this form, Ireland have nothing to fear in their progress to a second successive World Cup finals.
The one positive the Scots can take from the match is they recovered from 24 for four to total 232 for seven but the way Ireland captain William Porterfield launched the reply on a excellent batting pitch, 332 probably wouldn’t have been enough.
Porterfield hit his first ODI century for Ireland in two years - his fifth in all - from just 87 balls with a display of crisp hitting and perfectly placed shots which he has denied Ireland supporters for too long. Indeed since his last 50, he has got past 20 only twice in 16 innings but, with timing to die for, he chose the perfect stage to show off his stroke play.
In his first 50, he hit nine fours and his first ever six for Ireland and, after losing Gary Wilson for 14, he inspired Eoin Morgan to finally join the party. The England hopeful had failed to reach 50 in his last 10 innings for Ireland and when he chased his second ball, it had the look of a desperate young man. But, after playing himself in, he brought up the Ireland 100 with a six over wide long-on, in only the 15th over, and never looked back.
With three fours and three more sixes under his belt, the old confidence had returned long before he played a horrible reverse sweep which ended his innings with only 59 needed from 23 overs! Niall O’Brien was untroubled in his 42-ball stay and Andre Botha, proved his fitness to bat (Andrew White had made way for him) with an unbeaten 15 from 14 balls. A misfield ended the match but by that stage the Scots were down and well and truly out.
Much like they were after barely half an hour, 8.1 overs to be precise, when Peter Connell took his second wicket to add to Boyd Rankin’s double strike in his first nine balls. The Scots had no answer to the extra bounce which Rankin’s height and Connell’s pace generated and the might of Gavin Hamilton, Ryan Watson, Navdeep Poonia and Colin Smith contributed only 10 runs between them.
Trent Johnston could not reproduce his wonderful spell against UAE on Sunday but he should have had the wicket of Neil McCallum, Botha spilling the catch at slip with the total on 96 for five. Johnston, in turned dropped a more difficult catch, the ball coming over his shoulder, off Rankin, when Scotland’s top scorer was 66 but McCallum took full advantage to finish 121 not out, with 12 fours and three sixes.
Ireland's only spin bowler, Regan West, was wicketless from his eight overs - he had to be brought out of the attack prematurely when Scotland took their batting power play - while Kevin O’Brien and Alex Cusack shared the other 12 overs of medium pace but they went for 81 runs and gave Ireland a greater challenge than they expected to be facing. They rose to it like the class side they are.