Friday 18 August 2017

Balbirnie steadies ship as Ireland cruise

Andrew Balbirnie of Ireland
Andrew Balbirnie of Ireland

Nick Hoult

Andy Balbirnie underlined his growing importance to the Ireland middle order with a solid 44 as the hosts completed a resounding 46-run victory over the USA in Belfast yesterday to remain unbeaten in the World T20 qualifiers.

The Pembroke and Middlesex all-rounder walked out to bat with Ireland wobbling on 49-3 but his five boundaries, including one maximum, allied to John Mooney's 20 not out from seven balls helped post a challenging 146-6, with 51 coming from the final four overs.

Alex Cusack struck with the second delivery of the reply and the last, Mooney and Stuart Thompson also claimed two wickets each and a pair of run-outs in the 13th over effectively ended the US challenge long before they were bowled for exactly 100.

The victory was Ireland's 20th consecutive win in World T20 qualifiers, including the final of the past two tournaments, and a further success today against Nepal would all but ensure a place in next week's second stage of qualification.

Scotland are not faring so well in the harder of the two groups. After losing to the Netherlands by 32 runs in Edinburgh on Saturday, the tournament co-hosts suffered back-to-back defeats when they fell 37 runs short of Afghanistan's 210-5 yesterday.

Meanwhile, Ireland have made a winning start to the U19 World Cup qualifying tournament in Jersey, beating the hosts by six wickets on Saturday and following up by trouncing the Netherlands by 76 runs. Scotland are also unbeaten and play Ireland today.

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