Hall holds his nerve to get off-colour Irish out of trouble once again
IRELAND survived another scare and again had the nerves of Josh Hall to thank for a nail-biting four-run victory over Afghanistan at North County yesterday in the U-19 World Cup qualifying tournament.
Hall, who struck the winning boundary with a ball to spare in Ireland's opener against the USA on Thursday, was called on to bowl the final over with Afghanistan needing 11 to overhaul the home side's 212 all-out.
Two dot balls and a run-out piled on the pressure and with a six needed off the final delivery for an Afghan victory, Hall's aim remained true and he bowled big-hitting Najibullah Zadran for 28.
For a second time, Ireland's top-order batting failed to catch fire and when Graeme McCarter was bowled for a duck the tournament favourites found themselves 86-6 in the 25th over, exactly as they had done against the USA.
Adam Coughlan again steadied the ship with a solid 28 and Andrew McBrine struck six fours in a fluent 50, but only a last-wicket partnership of 53 between Niall Hodgins and Barry McCarthy gave Ireland a target to defend.
While wicketkeeper Hodgins defended stoutly for five not-out, Pembroke all-rounder McCarthy scored a run-a-ball 47 that turned the game.
Coughlan and skipper George Dockrell were the star turns with the ball for Ireland, forcing Afghanistan behind the asking rate and claiming two wickets apiece before it again fell to the trusty Hall to deliver the knockout blow.
Ireland's third match in the 10-nation round-robin tournament is against Scotland at The Hills tomorrow.