Cricket: Irish blood and sweat looks in vain as Scots opt to shun Zimbabwe trip
IRELAND gave blood and sweat in a bid to beat Canada in Toronto yesterday, but the champions' hopes of a fourth successive InterContinental Cup title may already have been ended on this side of the Atlantic.
Cricket Scotland's decision not to travel to Zimbabwe to play their final IC Cup qualifying match means that Ireland cannot reach November's final in Dubai unless the game is re-arranged at a neutral venue.
If, as seems likely, the match is unplayed and awarded to the Africans -- or even if the points are shared -- Zimbabwe will contest the final with Afghanistan and Ireland's five-year reign will be over.
There was no sign of any easing off the accelerator in Canada yesterday, though, as Andrew White hit 84 to help Ireland to 261 all out and a first-innings lead of 141. Canada responded with 190 for eight in their second innings but Kevin O'Brien halting the hosts progress with three quick wickets.
Ireland were without Trent Johnston for the start of Canada's response after their inspirational captain was struck on the grill of his helmet while batting and taken to hospital for stitches to a cut eyebrow after being blood trickled down his face.
The hosts made a far better fist of their batting second time around and Ireland had to be patient in the field after an early breakthrough from Phil Eaglestone.
Andre Botha hit the stumps twice and three late wickets for Kevin O'Brien left Canada with an overall lead of only 49 which should mean an Ireland win and maximum points early today .
While Scotland have shied away from visiting Zimbabwe on the safety advice of the UK government, Cricket Ireland's trip later this month will go ahead as planned and has been vigorously defended by CEO Warren Deutrom.
Reacting to accusations of bowing to pressure from the sports ruling body, the ICC, Deutrom said: "It has been ungenerously suggested that Ireland is acting, variously, in an 'objectionable' and 'shameful' fashion, or as political ingenues, bullied by the ICC. Nothing is further from the truth.
"We have consulted with both Governments on a constant basis, and with the ICC, we have spoken to security experts, we have spoken to our players and sponsors and we have made our own decision, protracted though that has been."
Meanwhile, the three Pakistan cricketers under scrutiny for claims of spot-fixing will miss today's match against Somerset. Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif will instead attend an inquiry headed by Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ijaz Butt in London.