Tuesday 18 December 2018

D-Day as Ireland bid to qualify for next year's World Cup

Ireland's Niall O'Brien
Ireland's Niall O'Brien
Zimbabwe were expected to comfortably beat the UAE and join the West Indies in the finals, but after a lunchtime shower set them a Duckworth-Lewis target of 230 from 40 overs, pressure saw the home fall short by just four runs (stock picture)

Gerard Hughes

Ireland take on Afghanistan today in Harare with the prize of a place at next year's World Cup at stake for the winners after hosts Zimbabwe suffered a shock defeat by bottom-placed United Arab Emirates in their final Super Sixes match.

Niall O'Brien will make his 100th one-day international appearance, with former coach Phil Simmons and team-mate John Mooney in the opposite dressing room, in a game that has suddenly gone from dead rubber to multi-million-dollar showdown.

Zimbabwe were expected to comfortably beat the UAE and join the West Indies in the finals, but after a lunchtime shower set them a Duckworth-Lewis target of 230 from 40 overs, pressure saw the home fall short by just four runs.

"We all sat in our rooms watching the game on TV and the UAE were superb," O'Brien said. "It sets up a huge game for us and we will be right up for it.

"Getting to 100 ODI caps is something I'm very proud off. I still remember my debut so to get to 100 is very pleasing, and the chance of getting to the finals again, and especially the finals in England (because I'm married to an English woman) is a massive incentive."

Ireland will need to bat significantly better than their English counterparts could manage in their first Test against New Zealand, however, after they were skittled out for just 58 in Auckland.

Coach Trevor Bayliss was embarrassed and hurt as they hit rock-bottom with their collapse. Bayliss could scarcely believe what he was watching as a succession of England's most talented batsmen got their feet stuck in the crease and failed to negate the swinging pink ball against Trent Boult (six for 32) and Tim Southee (four for 25). At one point, England were headed not just for the worst total in their own 141-year Test history but the lowest of all time by anyone as they capitulated to 23 for eight.

From 27 for nine, last pair Craig Overton and James Anderson more than doubled the score - but by close on day one of New Zealand's inaugural day-night Test at Auckland's Eden Park, the hosts had already put England's sixth-lowest total into stark context as captain Kane Williamson (91no) led the way to 175 for three.

"We were rabbits in the headlights," said Bayliss. "Someone sneezes - and the rest of the guys catch a cold, don't they?"

Elsewhere, Pat Cummins proved the catalyst for an huge change in fortunes for Australia as he halted a South African charge and left the hosts reeling at the close on the opening day of the third Test.

South Africa were cruising at 220 for two just after tea when Cummins returned to the attack for a magnificent spell during which he picked up four wickets for 12 runs in eight overs to trigger a South African collapse. The home side ended the day on 266 for eight after dominating the first two sessions.

  • Ireland v Afghanistan, Live, Sky Sports Mix, 8.55am

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport