Balbirnie hails Irish strength in win over Bangladesh
THE Ireland squad undertook the first of four flights across the Tasman Sea today still believing that it will be "all right on the night" when they tackle the West Indies on Monday but far from happy with their World Cup preparations.
While Andy Balbirnie gave the camp a much-needed lift with a quality 63 not out that delivered a four-wicket victory over Bangladesh in their final warm-up match in Sydney, defeats to Randwick-Petersham and Scotland were clearly still hurting.
"The performance against Scotland was the worst since I've been involved with this team," Balbirnie admitted. "But it shows the strength we have in the squad to bounce back like that."
Winning again reminded the ICC that Ireland can compete with one of its Test match-playing Full Members, on a fraction of Bangladesh's funding. Their last three meetings have all ended in Irish victories, albeit this one was a 12-a-side practice match.
If Phil Simmons was hoping the game at the Blacktown Oval would help him determine who will partner Craig Young with the new ball on Monday, it only made his decision harder because opening bowlers Max Sorensen and John Mooney both took three wickets as Bangladesh were bowled out for 189.
Ireland made heavy going of a modest chase. Paul Stirling, Niall O'Brien and Gary Wilson all went cheaply and it required the steadying influence of Ed Joyce, who made 47, to steady the ship.
"Ed is so easy to bat with," Balbirnie said. "He talks to you when you come in and tells you what's going on and you don't feel under any pressure."
Balbirnie's score matched the squad number on his shirt that he adopted as a mark of respect after the Phillip Hughes tragedy.
Meanwhile, Scotland came within a boundary of embarrassing the West Indies in a warm-up game at the SCG. Chasing 314 to win, Scotland needed 14 from the last two overs only to finish on 310-9.
Clarke loses battle to face old enemy
Australia captain Michael Clarke has lost his race to be fit for tomorrow's blockbuster World Cup opener against England.
Coach Darren Lehmann confirmed that Clarke would not play at the MCG despite the 33-year-old's quicker-than-expected recovery from hamstring surgery.
Clarke pulled on an Australia shirt for the first time in two months on Wednesday night, hitting 64 and bowling two overs of spin, as his side finalised their World Cup preparations with a 188-run win over United Arab Emirates.
But Lehmann confirmed the plan remained for Clarke to return against Bangladesh on February 21.