Easy chase against UAE has set Ireland up for potentially decisive Netherlands clash, with Stirling cleared to play after minor injury
Having endured a heart-stopping last-ball win over Test-playing nation Zimbabwe in its opening Group B qualifying game two nights ago, Ireland lorded over UAE at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Wednesday (March 19), headed for a big win before the elements curtailed the march and left the team victorious by 21 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method.
“It was important to win well,” said Ed Joyce, the Ireland No. 3 who was named the Man of the Match for his 43 and a couple of catches. “It could come to run-rate. We have obviously got four points and there is the chance that we could lose the last game (against the Netherlands). Then the Netherlands could have four points, Zimbabwe could have four points. It was important to win well but also make a statement against our fellow Associates that we are still top of the tree there. So it was good to get a relatively easy win.
“We have played well against the others (Associate nations) for a really long time now. We are aware that the teams around us are improving all the time,” said Joyce. “We have played a lot of close games against teams like UAE and Afghanistan and Scotland in the last few years. We have come out on top most of the times, and we know we definitely can’t take anyone for granted.”
Ireland is all but through to the Super 10, but Joyce chose not to look too far ahead. “We’ve obviously got the Netherlands coming up in two days’ time, we have to win that first,” he said, sounding a word of caution. “Then I think we will go to Chittagong. We will look at that in a few days after we get past the Netherlands. It was always our plan coming into the World Cup to get into that second stage and pit our wits against the big boys and hopefully we can get to do that when we get there.”
With the run-rate a potentially decisive factor in the event of a three-way tie, Ireland batted with one eye on that as well, Joyce agreed, when asked if there was a conscious effort to boost the run-rate. “Once we were about 80-odd, we talked about it, made a conscious effort to increase the run-rate,” he observed. “Kevin (O’Brien) came in (at No. 4), he usually wouldn’t do so. It didn’t work out but we knew we were close enough, the game was won anyway.”
While the batsmen sealed victory, it was set up by the bowlers, Joyce pointed out, referring to UAE being restricted to 123 for 6 after being put in. “We pride ourselves on the way we bowl and the wicket was probably a more Irish and UK wicket than we are used to here, which is why we picked Tim Murtagh (the paceman) ahead of Andy McBrine (the offspinner). It was a good choice by the captain and the coach, so credit goes to them. But huge credit goes to the bowling attack. It is a very good wicket and to restrict them to 120-odd, Man of the Match should have gone to one of the bowlers, really. They did a fantastic job. We fielded reasonably, we still have got a way to go with our fielding but we bowled very well, with great discipline.”
There was more good news for Ireland with Paul Stirling being cleared of serious injury. Stirling had been hit on his right elbow while attempting a pull in the first over of the chase off Asadullah Sharif, and left the field. An x-ray at a local hospital ruled out major damage, with only some soft tissue bruising. The official word was that he would be fine for Friday’s decisive clash against the Netherlands.