Our first game in the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015 was against Namibia. We’ve played them quite a bit over the years, and going into the match, we knew they’d be a tough side. They batted first and got 124, and we chased it down three down with about an over-and-a-half (2.4 overs) to spare. Our captain continued his brilliant form of late and William Porterfied got 56 not out. So it was nice to start off with a win and get our competition off and running.
Against USA, we batted first and got 140 (they scored 146). I got 44 and then we bowled them out for 100, so we won by 40 runs (won by 46 runs). It was just nice to get a win and contribute to the win. It’s the first tournament ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier I’ve been involved in for Ireland, so it was nice to contribute with the bat for most of the innings and get us to a competitive total to make us two from two.
The game against Nepal was a big one for all of us. I thought our bowlers bowled particularly well, using the local conditions we know so well perfectly. Kevin O’Brien picked up the Man of the Match for his bowling performance and he’s been outstanding for us all tournament. We bowled them out for 53 and then chased it down fairly comfortably, for the loss of two wickets. So to get three from three was the ideal start for us and we were happy to be top of the table.
Against Papua New Guinea, we won the toss and batted first. It was a slow enough pitch and we only got 123, which was probably a little below par as we lost wickets at regular occurrence, which was disappointing. Our skipper was outstanding for us again and showed us the way to bat with that bit of patience for his not out fifty. In our own conditions we definitely still thought we had the right bowlers to do the job and we certainly got ourselves into a winning position in the field. We reduced them to 93 for 8 and when they need 31 to win off 19 balls it was our game for the taking. But their No. 9 batsman Norman Vanua came in and got a 28 off 10 balls and took the game away from us.
It was very disappointing. Obviously we want to win every game we play, particularly against other Associate countries. So that is disappointing for us all in the squad but we’re still in a decent position with three wins from four games and we’ve got two games left in Group A. So we are going to have win those two games, we want to win them both and then see what happens after that.
I think at the start of the tournament, our aim was to top the group. Like I said before, we want to win every game. If we don’t top the group, we’re just going to have to deal with that and focus on what we’ve got in front of us, which may mean we may need another couple of games to get to the semi-final or final. We’ll just take each day as it comes and not look too far ahead and control what we can and see where we are in a week or a week-and-a-half or so.
Against Hong Kong, for a lot of us, it’s our homeground, our hometown in Dublin with the wonderful new ground in Malahide. So it’s good to get down here and hopefully we’ll get a good crowd out in Malahide tomorrow.
I think we’ll expect a fairly good wicket, it’ll be a relatively fresh wicket. Some of the wickets we’ve been playing on so far in this tournament, which has probably suited the bowlers. So for us batters, it might be a bit nicer to play on a pacier and friendlier batting track. But that’s not to say our bowlers won’t play a big part. They’ve played a big part in the whole competition. Like all teams in both groups, we’ve seen that any result is possible. Hong Kong will be ready to pounce, so like I said we’ve just got to take each day as it comes and see where we are at the end of it, I don’t know much about Hong Kong myself but I know we’ve got be on our game to get the right result.
Moving down to Malahide also brings the TV cameras with it and it’s really nice to get some great coverage for these sort of tournaments. I think it’s great for the game and great for the Associate countries. I suppose most of us have played in front of television quite a bit in the World Cups, so that comes with the territory. You just got to play the opposition and not worry about what’s happening outside the boundary ropes. It’s a game of cricket and of course we’re out there to win, cameras or not. We’re just looking forward to getting to Malahide today for the first time at the Qualifier and playing, in front of a good Irish crowd.
We came to this tournament with two goals. One was to qualify and the second was to win the tournament. If we only end up qualifying and not winning the tournament, I still see that as a fairly successful tournament. But at the same time, we’re a team that wants to win every game we play, so that’s no different. We want to win this tournament like we have the last two tournaments, especially playing all our (remaining) games in Malahide, it’s going to be a big challenge for us.
We know the conditions quite well, a lot of us have played a lot of cricket here. So we have that in our favour. And once it comes down to the knockout games, the big games, that’s when we need to be in our top game and hopefully, we can all put in good performances and get the right result.