Ireland recover to defeat Canada
It was somewhat inevitable that on the day that Eoin Morgan was named in the preliminary England squad for the Twenty20 World Cup, he would serve up a batting masterclass to help Ireland preserve their unbeaten start to the tournament.
When Kevin O’Brien joined Morgan at the crease, Ireland were deep in the mire at a precarious 42 for 4, in response to a Canadian total of 220. Initially watchful, Morgan took 18 balls to get off the mark, he and O’Brien blossomed as the white ball got softer, and in the process entertained the large Irish travelling contingent.
The pair shared an Irish record 5th wicket partnership of 181 in 32 overs, breaking the previous record held by Jim Harrison and Alec O’Riordan against Denmark way back in 1973.
It could all have been so different had Khurram Chohan held on to a regulation caught and bowled opportunity offered by Kevin O’Brien when he had made just six, and the total was 60. From then on the momentum shifted towards Ireland, and the pair combined good running between the wicket, with powerful hitting all around the ground.
Morgan set the tone for the fightback by advancing down the track to Balaji Rao, striking the leg spinner out of the large Wiilowmoore Park Oval. The Canadian spinners were never allowed to settle into any sort of meaningful rhythm, as both batsmen used their feet to great effect.
It had been an altogether different story when the Ireland top order faced Umar Bhatti with the new ball. The left arm quick bowler used the conditions to great effect, and had all the batsmen in great difficulty. However it was Henry Osinde who made the initial breakthrough. He had Gary Wilson caught off an uppercut slash at deep third man – it wasn’t the smartest piece of batting ever witnessed, and allowed the catcher, Sunil Dhaniram to atone for a glaring miss off William Porterfield the previous ball.
Bhatti then had Porterfield (10) caught driving at short cover, before Niall O’Brien went on the attack. The Northants batsman had struck 5 fours and a six as he made 32 of the first 42 on the board off just 26 balls. He attempted one drive too many and was bowled by Bhatti, who two balls later removed Alex Cusack for 0, brilliantly caught by a diving Ashish Bagai in front of first slip.
That was the cue for Morgan (84*) and Kevin O’Brien (89*) to lead the Irish charge as they passed the total with 9 overs to spare. Morgan faced 100 deliveries, striking 10 fours and a six, while O’Brien struck 9 fours and a six from 104 balls.
Earlier Boyd Rankin (2-36) was the pick of the Irish attack, and those figures could have been even better, as Peter Connell misjudged a catch off Davison, and Trent Johnston spilled a tough chance off Geoff Barnett at first slip. Those misses looked costly as Canada raced to 100 for 1 after 20 overs. However Johnston atoned by bowling Davison for 41, and having Barnett (49), caught by Wilson, his first wickets of the competition.
Johnston and Andrew White applied the brakes effectively, and backed up by a much improved second half fielding display, evidenced by four run outs, Canada succumbed to a score of 220, when it looked for the most part if they were on course to make at least 275.
In what must have been a difficult task for the ajudicator, Eoin Morgan just pipped Kevin O’Brien for the Man of the Match Award. O’Brien won’t mind too much – he’s now scored 196 runs without being dismissed, and is showing the sort of form which has made him a target for several English counties.Ireland have a day off before completing their group stages against Namibia on Wednesday.