Put in to bat, Ireland lost two quick wickets, with both openers departing by the end of the fifth over. Following that, the O’Brien brothers – Niall (27) and Kevin (31) – stitched together a partnership of 58 runs off just 38 balls, before they too fell. Trent Johnston, batting at No.5, then stayed on till the end, as Ireland reached a healthy 168 for 5. Johnston remained unbeaten on 39 off 24, with three hits to the fence and two sixes.
Harvir Baidwan and Jimmy Hansara picked up a couple of wickets each for Canada, while Junaid Siddiqui accounted for the wicket of William Porterfield, the Ireland captain.
Canada’s chase got off to a bad start, with Max Sorensen removing Hiral Patel and Rizwan Cheema off the first two deliveries of the innings. However, Ruvindu Gunasekara (65) and Ashish Bagai, the captain, got together for a 125-run stand off just 92 balls. Following Gunasekara’s dismissal in the 16th over, Hansara joined Bagai, and scored a brisk, unbeaten 22 off just 12 balls. Bagai also hit out, remaining unbeaten on a 55-ball 67, but Canada fell just short in its chase, ending on 166 for 3.
Porterfield admitted that Ireland let the match become much closer than it would have liked. “That’s what it’s about, getting those two points,” he said. “Obviously, it was a bit tighter than we might have hoped, especially after getting those early wickets, but taking nothing away from the way Ash played and Gunasekera there, it was a fantastic effort from themselves to get so close, especially when the pressure was on, needing nine-and-a-half 11 overs out.”
Porterfield said Ireland couldn’t relax inspite of the initial quick strikes. “No, I don’t think we thought the game was over. We knew that was a crucial partnership and we said that at the time, obviously Ash is one of their main players and Gunasekera as well, he can take a lot of attacks down, so it was a big achievement, both wickets. We knew that was a big partnership to break, unfortunately it took us about 16 overs to break it.”
Porterfield pointed to Alex Cusack’s bowling as a key factor in the win. Cusack took 1 for 27 in four overs and had the best economy rate of both sides. “Obviously Cusack is one of our main performers in this format of the game, and you know what you’re getting when you give him the ball. Obviously, he kept it a bit interesting with the third-last ball going for a six. He’s fantastic, and coming down that back end, I’d back him any day, with 14 required.”
Asked about the upcoming tie against the UAE, Porterfield said UAE was a good side at home and Ireland will have to come back stronger.
“We had a tight series with them in the 50-over game earlier this year, and one Twenty20 tied on the back of that. They’re a dangerous side at home in this form of the game. We’re going to have to go home, pick ourselves up again and come back stronger tomorrow,” he said.
Ireland takes on UAE tomorrow at the same venue.