Tector knock leads Ireland to thrilling win
Harry Tector produced an invaluable half-century and a cool head as captain to help Ireland squeeze past Scotland by five runs in a pulsating finish in Jersey yesterday to win European U-19 World Cup qualifier.
In what was effectively a winner-takes-all clash, Ireland's top order crashed and burned on a difficult pitch and after losing both openers in the first seven balls had slipped to 27-5 before Tector mounted a dogged recovery to help his side to 108 all out.
It should not have been enough but early wickets rocked Scotland and as the pressure mounted the Associate side fell apart, losing their last five for nine runs to spark wild celebrations among the Ireland squad and supporters.
"We believed we could do it when we came out after lunch and we kept believing even when they got to 94-5," said an elated Tector.
"When the left-hander got out I said 'Look, stranger things have happened' and we never stopped fighting. It was phenomenal.
"When the ball went up in the air for the final wicket I just closed my eyes and hoped it would be caught - but it was 'Pebbles' (Neil Rock) under it and he's got safe hands."
The victory, as thrilling as it was, and a perfect record of six wins, should not paper over the cracks in this team because while the bowling attack led by Josh Little, Aaron Cawley and Max Neville has impressive potential, the batting has been below par and will need to improve markedly before the finals in New Zealand in January.
Ireland set out looking for 230 after winning the toss but it quickly became clear that something in the 150-180 range was more realistic and Tector admitted he was looking no higher than 120 when Little ran himself out to leave the Boys in Green in deep trouble on 47-7.
Happy to play out maidens and scamper singles, the YMCA youngster eked out 55 from 139 balls, with only one four, when the next highest score came from Aaron Cawley with 8, as he helped add 36 for the ninth wicket, by some way the biggest partnership of the innings.
"We needed to bat the overs," said Tector. "I was just thinking the longer I can bat, the more runs we can score and I wanted to make sure we didn't leave 20 overs out there.
Three wickets each for opening bowlers Little and Cawley, plus two for the pacy Neville, kept chipping away at Scotland, and man-of-the-match Tector's deft captaincy saw him turn to leg-spinner Varun Chopra to take the vital sixth wicket that sparked the collapse.
Meanwhile, a shoulder injury has forced Ireland's Max Sorensen to retire from international cricket.