SYLHET - This was expected to be one-way traffic, a match devoid of drama and histrionics, and so it turned out, save right at the end when the floodlights went out briefly, came back on briefly and went out again, a dust storm swept across the ground and the skies opened up, forcing the game to be called off. Experienced Ireland against rookie UAE was never going to be a classic, Ireland overwhelming its opponents by 21 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method following the abandonment of the match to move a step closer to qualifying for the Super 10 stage of the ICC World Twenty20 2014. Ireland’s second successive win in the Group B qualifying competition at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Wednesday (March 19) night was attained with supreme comfort. Put in to bat, UAE never threatened to make a match of it, tied down by Ireland’s assortment of quicker bowlers to limp to 123 for 6 when it ran out of time.
Paul Stirling, whose double-wicket maiden earlier in the night had stymied UAE’s promising start, was forced to retire hurt after being struck on his right elbow in the first over of the chase by Sharif Asadullah, but that was no more than a temporary blip. Stirling, the Man of the Match in the previous game when Ireland edged Zimbabwe by three wickets off the last ball of the match, was taken to hospital for an x-ray even as his mates set about the UAE bowling with an eye on the net run-rate, reaching 103 for 3 in 14.2 overs, well ahead of the D/L par score of 82, when the match had to be abandoned in unfortunate circumstances.
With Sylhet scheduled to host the two remaining Group B ties on Friday, as well as the Women’s World Twenty20 from March 23, the authorities will need to work overtime to ensure that there is no repeat of the floodlight fiasco. Already, the fertiliser factories have been asked to stop production in order to divert electricity to the cricket. Zimbabwe’s win over the Netherlands earlier in the evening had thrown the group somewhat open, and aware that the run-rates might be a factor if it is beaten by the Netherlands in the final tie of the group on Friday night, Ireland began its chase in right earnest despite losing Stirling’s services with 15 on the board at the top of the second over. William Porterfield was his usual busy self while Ed Joyce was a revelation. Joyce came into the game with a Twenty20 International strike rate of 90.76 from 16 previous games but wasn’t averse to taking the aerial route, bunting and biffing his way to 43 off 38 before being first man dismissed after a three-way opening stand worth 95.
Kevin O’Brien, thrust up to No. 4 with an eye on the run-rate, perished in the same Asadullah over without scoring and Andrew Poynter was cleaned up by a wonderful yorker from Amjad Javed, but it was too little too late, the lights and the elements combining to stymie UAE’s late fightback.
Mindful of the dew being a factor as the game unfolded, Ireland left out Andy McBrine, the offspinner, and brought in Tim Murtagh, the experienced paceman. Murtagh justified the move with four tidy overs which fetched him 1 for 20, but the real bowling stars were Stirling, with 2 for 12 from his three overs of offspin, and O’Brien, who was again on the money in taking 2 for 17 from his full quota.
UAE had begun breezily enough through Amjad Ali and Faizan Asif, Amjad the early aggressor as he lay into Max Sorensen. Their running between the wickets, though, was uncertain and it came as no surprise when the breakthrough came through a run-out. Asif set off for an impossible single, Amjad seemed to respond and then left his partner for dead, an underarm lob from short square-leg catching Asif well short after a promising stand of 35.
Enter Stirling for a third over. With his first ball of a new spell, he forced Amjad to cut to backward point and three deliveries later, Swapnil Patil danced down the track but only managed to pick out midwicket with a soft chip. It was 46 for 3 in 6.4 overs, and UAE was forced to embrace the rebuilding mode.
Fortunately, Khurram Khan was still in the middle. UAE’s captain, also its most accomplished batsman, was the stabilising hand even as the exciting Shaiman Anwar deposited George Dockrell over long-off and swatted Sorensen over midwicket. Between those sixes, though, Anwar was largely becalmed, the fourth-wicket partnership adding 42 but also consuming 44 deliveries.
Porterfield didn’t use his spinners for more than four overs in total, Dockrell bowling only one, as he relied on his pacers to do the job. The quicker bowlers didn’t let him down, O’Brien picking up a sharp return catch to see off Anwar and Murtagh netting the big fish, eliciting a tame skier from Khurram that safely settled in cover’s hands.
The UAE innings hit a roadblock thereafter. There was no infusion of momentum as it batted in one gear, and Ireland was allowed to do as it pleased. Between the odd boundary, there were several dot balls as UAE’s lack of tactical depth showed. Resultantly, there was no pressure on the Irish fielders, and the bowlers were skilled enough to pull their lengths back to avoid the hitting arc of the UAE batsmen, who must have realised that even in T20 cricket, there is a definite and significant place for the unglamorous single.
Amjad Ali c Dockrell b Stirling 20
Faizan Asif run out (Murtagh/†Wilson) 11
Khurram Khan c Joyce b Murtagh 16
S Patil c Porterfield b Stirling 0
Shaiman Anwar c & b O'Brien 30
Amjad Javed c Joyce b O'Brien 19
Rohan Mustafa not out 13
V Shetty not out 1
EXTRAS: (b2, lb3, w7, nb1) 13
TOTAL: (6 wkts; 20 overs) 123
FOW: 1-35, 2-46, 3-46, 4-88, 5-90, 6-115
BOWLING: P Stirling 3-1-12-2, M Sorensen 3-0-24-0, T Murtagh 4-0-20-1, A Cusack 4-0-30-0, G Dockrell 1-0-10-0, K O'Brien 4-0-17-2, S Thompson 1-0-5-0
W Porterfield not out 33
P Stirling retired hurt 8
E Joyce c Khurram b Sharif 43
K O'Brien c Shetty b Sharif 0
A Poynter b Amjad Javed 4
G Wilson not out 1
EXTRAS: (lb2, w7, pen5) 14
TOTAL: (3 wkts; 14.2 overs) 103
FOW: 1-95, 2-96, 3-1010
BOWLING: Sharif Asadullah 3-0-21-2, Kamran Shazad 3-0-28-0, Amjad Javed 3-0-18-1, Rohan Mustafa 4-0-13-0, Ahmed Raza 1.2-0-16-0
MAN OF MATCH: E Joyce (Ire)
UMPIRES: M Erasmus (SA), IJ Gould (Eng)
TV UMPIRE: S Davis (Aust)
MATCH REFEREE: D Boon (Aus)