The Ireland men’s cricket team has thumped Nigeria by eight wickets in their final Group Stage match of the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier tournament in Abu Dhabi yesterday, moving to the top spot in Group B and will nervously await today’s match between Jersey and Oman to see who qualifies automatically for the World Cup.
With the loss of David Delany, due to a torn meniscus knee injury, Stuart Thompson returned to the side for this first-ever international cricket match between the two sides.
After losing the toss and being asked to bowl first, it didn’t take long for the men in green to assert their dominance. Leg-spinner Gareth Delany struck first, cleaning up opener Daniel Ajeku who tried to go back and cut a ball too close to his stumps and was beaten in flight.
Two further wickets fell soon after, and the Nigerians found themselves struggling at 13-3 after 5 overs. From that point, the African side never recovered, with the Irish bowlers bowling a consistent line and length on a sluggish looking pitch. Nigeria finished on 66-9 from their 20 overs – equal to the lowest completed T20I total by a side not being bowled out.
For Ireland, Craig Young claimed career-best figures of 4-13 from his four overs, and Mark Adair went top of the tournament wicket-taking chart with 2-10 from his four overs. Demonstrating their tight bowling, five wickets to fall were bowled, with head coach, Graham Ford, pleased that his side didn’t let the pressure off throughout the full 20 overs.
With the state of the Group B table, at the halfway stage Ireland’s batsmen knew they had to knock off the target in nine overs to go top of the Group. And they achieved their target off just 37 balls.
Paul Stirling (11) fell early, and Kevin O’Brien (32) lost his wicket late on, but Gareth Delany (11 off 8 balls) and Mark Adair (10 off 4 balls) saw their side home at a rapid rate.
As a notable aside, Paul Stirling (694 runs) and Kevin O’Brien (690 runs) now sit in first and second place in the records for most runs in a calendar year in T20I cricket worldwide.
The circumstances of the match means that Ireland leap into first place in the Group B table requiring Jersey to upset Oman in order to claim automatic qualification for the World Cup. If Oman win on Sunday, Ireland will go into a play-off against the third placed side from Group A – which is currently Scotland.
After the match, Gary Wilson said: “We’re top at the moment and will keep a close on eye on the game tomorrow. All we could do is do our job as best we could today, and it was a clinical performance. Credit must go to Nigeria – it’s great to see teams like Nigeria here competing at this level, it can only be a positive thing for the globalisation of cricket around the world.
“We want to be playing our best cricket towards the end of the tournament, and we probably haven’t been at our best yet, but some positive performances over the last couple of days and we’ll look to take that into the next match.”
“David Delany has a bit of an issue with his knee, we’re not quite sure how bad yet, but we’ll monitor that pretty closely over the next 24 hours.”