Wednesday 13 November 2019

Questions must be asked

But Deutrom says shock T20 exit won't hurt Test bid, writes Ger Siggins

Andrew Poynter scores his half century watched by Wesley Barresi during the ICC World Twenty20 Group B match
Andrew Poynter scores his half century watched by Wesley Barresi during the ICC World Twenty20 Group B match

Ger Siggins

MONSOON season is still a few months away but you wouldn't know it if you were in the crowd at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Friday. Lethal 5oz hailstones showered on the locals as six-hitting records were smashed by the Netherlands batsmen, sending Ireland on an unwanted flight out of Dhaka last night.

People who have watched cricket for 30 or 40 years shook their heads and swore they had never seen anything like it. The record books, which now show 19 sixes amid a sustained slaughter of 14 runs per over, will testify to that.

The six-storm certainly rattled the Irish players. For almost a decade they have been top dogs in Associate cricket – this was their first defeat to Holland in 18 games – and have never seen their attack destroyed. Since their first appearance at a global tournament they have been the ones to take the big boys down a peg, with Pakistan, Zimbabwe, England and Bangladesh all having their noses rubbed in it.

Kevin O'Brien took a similar death-or-glory approach at Bangalore and it paid off with a match-winning century. But to be on the other side of such an onslaught was not pleasant. "It's a bit of a shock," he said. "None of us really envisaged what has just happened. We just didn't have any answers."

Answers will be needed, however, as to why two off-spinners were entrusted with the new ball, especially a 20-year-old whose only previous T20 was four days before. Andrew McBrine is a fine prospect who was a real success in the West Indies, but he should have never been asked to set the tone for the innings against a batsman who feasts on spin like Peter Borren. Even more so when he and Stephan Myburgh had got their eye in with the similar bowling of Paul Stirling the over before.

McBrine's only over went for four sixes and the Dutch were on their way. Ireland's hitherto dynamic and athletic fielding deserted them, crucial catches went down and fielders were run ragged. The captain looked lost without the counsel of the retired Trent Johnston, and the absence of John Mooney and exclusion of Niall O'Brien deprived the side of its most committed fighters.

Questions will thus be asked of the selectors, and of Phil Simmons and the backroom staff who, incredibly, failed to let the captain know just why the Dutch had set off with such belligerence to get the runs within 86 balls. Porterfield himself was clearly irked by the blunder. "I was more concerned about defending 190 runs, but I only found that out with about 20 balls to go," he said in three separate interviews afterwards.

"I might have gone about it differently," he insisted. "Before, I thought spin was going to be the way but maybe we could have gone with the seamers slightly earlier to try to get the run-rate up, and try to get them out of the game. That might have made it easier."

His bowlers struggled with the no-fear attack of the Dutchmen on a good pitch for batting, and their carefully worked out plans were torn up. But the sheer freaky nature of the display was summed up by the skipper: "Maybe we bowled too full – but it's hard when one ball is going straight over your head and the next is disappearing over mid-wicket."

Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom was naturally disappointed with the result, but saw nothing to divert him from his aim of getting Ireland to the sport's top table. "It was one of those days when everything went right for the Netherlands", he said yesterday. "I've never seen a batting performance like it. They just went for it from the first ball, which you've got to have admiration for."

He isn't concerned that the defeat and early exit will have negative repercussions at ICC level. "Cricket people will look at that and see how it was one of those days. In the last four weeks we have beaten West Indies and Zimbabwe, both full members, and those results aren't wiped away by a freak batting performance."

Ireland picked up $250,000 for taking part in Bangladesh, and the only financial downside is that they don't have the opportunity to play for the $40,000 purse for each SuperTens game. Deutrom refutes any suggestion that the team were complacent, both in their public utterances and private discussions before the game where all acknowledged the dangers in the Dutch batting line-up.

Irish supporters will now turn their gaze to the women's team, who take part in their first World Twenty20 in the same stadium. Ireland's women played in five 50-over World Cups before the men even qualified for their first, but results have been on the slide since those days. A more professional approach was instigated by Jeremy Bray and carried on by Johnston when he took over as coach in January.

This year, they have beaten Pakistan in Qatar and came close to beating South Africa, so confidence is high that they can pull off a shock or two. "The commitment to training has been first-class," Johnston said. "I couldn't have asked any more; we've been training five, six, even seven days a week."

His captain Isobel Joyce has been an international for more than half her life and brings great experience to bear.

"The aim is to get into the second phase, which means we have to win two matches probably. The goal is to get in the games early and with Twenty20 being a funny game, you just never know what is going to happen."

Tuesday: v New Zealand, Thursday: v Australia, Saturday: v South Africa, Monday 29: v Pakistan.

Squad: Isobel Joyce (capt, Merrion), Laura Delany, Amy Kenealy, Eimear Richardson, Rebecca Rolfe (Leinster), Emma Flanagan, Jennifer Gray, Lucy O'Reilly (YMCA), Cecelia Joyce, Kate McKenna, Elena Tice, Melissa Scott-Hayward (Merrion), Louise McCarthy (Pembroke), Clare Shillington, Mary Waldron (Malahide).

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