Balbirnie keeps Ireland in the hunt
Andy Balbirnie silenced his doubters with a composed century at the Harare Sports Club yesterday as Ireland kept alive their faint hopes of reaching next year's World Cup with a comfortable 25-run victory over Scotland in the Super Sixes.
Balbirnie, who had failed to reach double figures since scoring 68 against the Netherlands in the opening game of the qualifiers, survived a patchy start but he slowly grew into his game. He struck 10 boundaries in making 105 from 146 balls, sharing an innings-building third-wicket partnership of 138 with Niall O'Brien as Ireland posted an above-average 271-9, despite a flurry of late wickets.
A win would have given the previously unbeaten Scots one foot through the qualification door, but a 3-6 burst in 11 balls from Boyd Rankin wrecked the middle of their chase and with Simi Singh, Tim Murtagh and, inevitably, Barry McCarthy taking two wickets each, the old rivals were bowled out for 246.
Ireland must now hope that Zimbabwe can muster a win against the West Indies today to keep them in the hunt, albeit only on net run-rate, while Scotland are sure to qualify if they beat the West Indies in their final match on Wednesday.
"I just wanted to start well and stay in," said Balbirnie. "I haven't had a great run, but this time I had a bit of a rub of the green.
"There's a lot of cricket to be played before our [final] game against Afghanistan. We're going to relax, take a few days off and then who knows what is going to be played for on Friday."