West cements starting place
Regan West surely played himself into Ireland’s first game in the World Twenty20 on Monday with a fine spell of slow left arm bowling against the might of South Africa.
Ireland lost their final warm-up match by 30 runs, but if there was any doubt that West was ready to face Bangladesh it was ended by four overs of steady line and length and good variation.
Coming onto bowl in the 12th over, with the Proteas on 102 for no wicket, he conceded just 20 runs as Ireland restricted one of the favourites for the tournament to just 61 runs in the last 10 overs.
Admittedly it helped that both captain Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis retired after reaching their 50s — they actually scored 99 in the first 10 overs with Smith hitting Alex Cusack for 24 in one over.
However, the over after West’s introduction, McCallan was hit by Kallis for a six and four while West conceded just singles in his next over to the great all-rounder before he too retired. Indeed, only one boundary was scored in the last seven overs.
If West played himself into next week’s starting line-up, then Gary Wilson could have played himself out of it. The reverse sweep, the shot which cost him Ireland’s only wicket in the World Cup Qualifying final two months ago, was again his downfall — second ball and looking for his first run.
Such is the competition for places that National Coach Phil Simmons is bound to pounce on any slip-ups and having left out Trent Johnston and Andre Botha from yesterday’s line-up he has made up his mind that two of his most experienced players are certain starters against the Tigers.
Kevin O’Brien — who bowled only one over and tamely gave his wicket away to a return catch after a 14-ball six — will surely be included because his run of low scores on this trip is bound to end sometime soon. He is one of Ireland’s biggest hitters and it would be a big, big call if he was to miss out.
The captain, William Porterfield failed again and Jeremy Bray, after hitting four boundaries in his first 11 balls, was disappointingly out to his 12th, caught at mid-off, but both are certainties for next week, as is Niall O’Brien who finally converted his good starts into a half century.
In all he faced 52 balls in reaching 62 and was only out, stumped, in the final over. However, he was forced to watch the soft dismissals at the other end and even John Mooney could not reach 20 for the first time in five matches in England in the last week.
Andrew White, with an unbeaten 16 has also probably done enough to give him a place when the tournament starts and that could mean Paul Stirling, Wilson, Cusack and Peter Connell missing out.
Scores: South Africa 163-6 (G Smith 63 retired out, J Kallis 57 retired out, P Connell 2-35) Ireland 133-6 (N O’Brien 62; J P Duminy 3-15, R Petersen 2-30). South Africa won by 30 runs.