|Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier, UAE 2012|
Ireland scrape past Italy
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
SO much for Ireland running into form! They duly picked up their second win of the World Twenty20 qualifiers this morning with victory over Italy in Abu Dhabi, but they limped over the line with only two wickets and two balls to spare.
That might just have been acceptable if they had been chasing a sizeable total but the bowlers had again performed superbly to dismiss the Italians for just 100. Instead, Ireland who actually left out a batsman (Andrew White) for a bowler (Max Sorensen) collapsed from 60 for two to 67 for five and when Sorensen was bowled, to a wild swing, off the last ball of the 19th over, Ireland still needed seven runs with only two wickets left.
Fortunately for the tournament favourites, Gary Wilson was still in the middle. Irelandís most consistent batsman since they left home five weeks ago, he audaciously reverse swept the second ball to thirdman for four, placed the next ball superbly into the gap at mid-wicket to run two and tie the scores and the Surrey professional them thumped the fourth ball down the ground to win the match.
Wilson finished 30 not out from 29 balls and ensured that Boyd Rankin, for his second innings in a row, did not have to face a ball.
Wilson probably deserved the man of the match award for not only winning it but keeping his head while, all around him, others were losing theirs but for the second day in a row it went to Rankin, who picked up back to back three-wicket hauls.
Yesterday he took three for 20 against Kenya to set up an emphatic 10 wickets win and today he bettered that with three for 16 from his four overs, his last, when he, fittingly, sent two stumps cartwheeling into the air was his 100th for Ireland.
He received superb support from Paul Stirling as captain William Porterfield again rang the changes. Stirling wasnít asked to bowl against the Kenyans but he opened it this morning and took two for 13 in an Italy innings went went nowhere for 18 overs. Captain Allesandro Bonora came in at No 8, hit two sixes in the last two overs which yielded 22 runs to bring up three figures.
It should not have been nearly enough but Italy, to their credit, bowled superbly to their field and always kept the batsmen under pressure.
OíBrien failed to survive the first ball of the second over so Irelandís regular opening pair were quickly together. Paul Stirling hit four boundaries in 17 but a bottom edge led to his early downfall and then, suicidally, they lost three wickets in successive overs for seven runs, with the captain, crucially, the last of the trio.
It didnít get any better as Trent Johnston and John Mooney, to a superb throw from thirdman, followed in quick succession and Ireland had to rely on Wilson. He did not let them down.
Tomorrow, for Ireland, it is the United States, back in Dubai and the majority of the batsmen still have much to prove.