Cricket: O'Brien heroics inspire Ireland to crushing victory
IRELAND are back into the running for a place at the Twenty20 World Cup finals after a walloping 78-run victory over the USA in yesterday's second qualifying match in Abu Dhabi.
Coach Phil Simmons could not have asked for a better reaction to Tuesday's narrow defeat by Afghanistan as his wounded side stormed to a record 202-4 against a team that had beaten Scotland the day before.
Niall O'Brien top-scored with 84 from just 50 balls, putting on 83 for the first wicket with William Porterfield (45) in 8.3 overs before Peter Connell ripped through the Americans' top order to return his best figures of 4-14.
O'Brien hoisted two sixes in addition to his 10 fours, Porterfield also cleared the ropes in his 45 and Alex Cusack joined in the fun with a couple of maximums before he was caught for 46.
When the USA slumped to 25-6 in reply, a record margin of victory looked likely, but after Connell and Trent Johnston (2-17) bowled out their overs, the pressure was off and the Americans scrambled to 124-6.
The size of the victory was important, though, because Ireland may go into their final Group A game today knowing they can narrowly lose to Scotland and still qualify for the Super Fours.
Afghanistan inflicted a second defeat on the Scots yesterday and if the group leaders beat the USA, Ireland's net run-rate will be a cushion should they slip up against their old rivals.
At Abu Dhabi (Ireland won toss): IRELAND 202-4 (20 overs, N O'Brien 84, A Cusack 46, W Porterfield 45), USA 124-6 (20 overs, P Connell 4-14, T Johnston 2-17). Ireland won by 78 runs.