Andy Balbirnie did not hide his disappointment last night after Ireland blew another great start in their do-or-die clash with Namibia and crashed out of the T20 World Cup, beaten by eight wickets in a tense low-scoring battle in Sharjah.
“That hurts a lot,” Ireland skipper Balbirnie said. “We didn’t get enough runs and David Wiese played a brilliant hand for them when the rate was eight-an-over. It will be hard to get over it.”
Paul Stirling got Ireland off to a flier, clearing the boundary and hitting five fours in a crunching 38 off 24 balls, and with Kevin O’Brien offering good support with 25, the opening partnership added 62 in 7.2 overs on a difficult pitch.
Runs became harder to find after Stirling and O’Brien picked outfielders in the deep and too often the Boys in Green were guilty of wildly swinging across the line instead of rotating the strike, as the Namibian attack tightened the screw.
Balbirnie battled to 21 from 28 balls before he was lbw heaving to leg, Curtis Campher was bowled for four, playing a similar shot, and after hitting the only boundary in the last seven overs, Harry Tector was caught behind for eight.#
A total of 125-8 was well below what would have been expected from 71-2 at halfway, but Namibia had shown the lines and lengths required to restrict scoring and Ireland began with good discipline, only to lose control in three key moments.
The first was deciding against a review when Mark Adair struck Namibian captain Gerhard Erasmus in front on two. The bowler was possibly distracted by a side injury he incurred in delivering the ball, which forced him off the field. Erasmus went on to make an unbeaten 53, and Ireland also had an early chance to run out former Sussex all-rounder Wiese when a superb dive and throw from Tector at backward point narrowly missed the stumps.
At that point, Namibia needed eight an over and Ireland were just favourites to squeeze into the Super 12, but successive sixes from Wiese in the 15th over turned the chase on its head, and the south-west Africans got home with nine balls to spare.
Defeats in the past three weeks by Scotland, the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka and now Namibia have shown T20 cricket is still Ireland’s weak suit despite Campher’s heroics with four wickets in four balls against the Netherlands.
Stirling and O’Brien had fine tournaments, Gareth Delany came good against the Dutch and both Adair and Josh Little were outstanding with the ball, but there is much thinking to do before Ireland return to the UAE in February for next year’s qualifiers.