William Porterfield’s team did well, firing with bat and ball, but came unstuck against the three teams ranked higher than them on the ICC charts.
Overall grade: B+
Beat the Netherlands by 93 runs (DLS method)
Beat Papua New Guinea by 4 wickets
Lost to Windies by 52 runs
Beat UAE by 226 runs (DLS method)
Lost to Zimbabwe by 107 runs
Beat Scotland by 25 runs
Lost to Afghanistan by 5 runs
Positives to take home
The pacemen hunted as a pack, and didn’t let the below-par showing of George Dockrell, who was dropped after three wicketless games, affect the team. Boyd Rankin (15) and Tim Murtagh (13) were on top of the team’s wicket-takers’ list, while Barry McCarthy and Kevin O’Brien struck crucial blows. When they got a chance, Simi Singh and Andy McBrine also chipped in with wickets and kept things tight, making up for the absence of Dockrell, Ireland’s lead spinner.
When the batting worked, it worked very well. William Porterfield (294), Paul Stirling (287), Andy Balbirnie (209), Niall O’Brien (202), Kevin O’Brien (198) and Ed Joyce (158) were all among the runs, and that was reflected in team totals in the matches Ireland won.
On the whole, Ireland showed their experience in class often, performing clinically as they chased yet another ICC Cricket World Cup appearance. The win against Papua New Guinea, especially, was a case in point. Tony Ura’s magical 151 took PNG to 235, and Porterfield and Joyce drew on their vast reserves of experience to carry the team home in the final over.
In the end, it didn’t come together well enough against the teams ranked higher than them.
Areas to improve
Each time Ireland came up against a higher-ranked team, the cracks showed. The three matches they lost in the competition were to Windies, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, ranked No.9, No.10 and No.11 in the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Team Rankings respectively to Ireland’s No.12. And the margins in the first two defeats were comprehensive. Interestingly, this is in stark contrast to the reputation Ireland have built over the years, of a team capable of beating the best on their day.
When they lost, it was their batting that let Ireland down, especially with William Porterfield and Andy Balbirnie not coming to the party. Against Windies, they were dismissed – along with Paul Stirling – with 32 on the board and against Zimbabwe with Ireland on 17, which became 18/3 with Ed Joyce falling and Ireland eventually got to only 104. The two of them were better against Afghanistan, but Porterfield’s 20 came off 45 balls and Balbirnie’s 11 from 34, and that left the middle order with too much to do.
Porterfield and Balbirnie were, however, good in the other games, and the captain tallied 294 runs for the tournament, while the No.3 batsman hit 209. But despite good bowling performances all along, the poor starts in the key matches set Ireland back and hurt their chances. A win in any of those three games would have put Ireland in the final.
One of the younger players in what is a very experienced Ireland team, Barry McCarthy played his part well on most occasions during the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018. The experience of being with Durham since 2015 has held the 25-year-old medium pacer in good stead and he made a big impact in the game against Scotland, picking up two late wickets to help Ireland to victory. Then, in the last one against Afghanistan, McCarthy gave Ireland a chance by sending back Samiullah Shenwari with the game hanging in the balance. Ireland will hope he does more with the new ball, and there are enough promising signs to believe that he can.
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