T20 World Cup: New Zealand spin a web around Ireland despite Little hat-trick heroics

Pembroke bowler becomes just the second Irishman to take a World Cup hat-trick

New Zealand (185-6, 20 overs) (Kane Williamson 61; Josh Little 3-22) beat Ireland (150-9, 20 overs) (Paul Stirling 37; Lockie Ferguson 3-22) by 35 runs. Scorecard here.

Not for the first time for Ireland, thoughts of what may have been remained front of house following an 35-run defeat to New Zealand that ended their T20 World Cup campaign.

Despite the heroics of Josh Little with the ball, his remarkable efforts seeing him become just the second Irishman to take a World Cup hat-trick after teammate Curtis Campher, Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson responded to recent criticism with a flowing half-century to guide his side to an imposing total of 185-6.

It was always going to be a tall task chasing that at the Adelaide Oval, but Ireland started well. Openers Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie took their side to 68-0 as a solid platform was set, but the New Zealand spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner responded to expensive starts to turn the game on its head with four wickets between them.


Regular wickets continued to fall once the New Zealand quicks returned, Ireland ultimately falling well short on 150-9 at the end of their 20 overs.

After winning the toss and choosing to bowl, Ireland excelled initially, avoiding giving the New Zealand batters width with which to target the short square boundaries. Given the slow start of 16-0 off three overs, Irish skipper Balbirnie threw the ball to his spinner Gareth Delany in a bid to tempt New Zealand into a mistake as they looked to catch up.

The opposite happened. The danger man Finn Allen, previously shackled up to that point, greeted Delany with three boundaries as he held his poise well, resisting the urge to over-hit while cashing in on the fielding restrictions.

That was the ignition Allen needed, hitting three further boundaries to race to 32 off just 18 deliveries before ultimately picking out a fielder off the bowling of Mark Adair.

At the other end, Devon Conway struggled for any fluidity. He was dropped and could easily have been run-out early in his innings - Harry Tector the unfortunate fielder on both occasions - but while he was at the crease he was doing little damage with a strike-rate of only 84. Granted, it wasn’t the only dropped chance Ireland were guilty of, their catch success rate of 65 per cent the second lowest in the Super 12s.

Another man who has been struggling for quick runs of late is Kiwi captain Williamson, but he recovered beautifully to set up the New Zealand innings. Boundaries down the ground and over square-leg off a Fionn Hand over that cost 18 runs highlighted his knock though his departure on 61, pulling Josh Little to the deep fielder on the leg side, started off a historic chain of events for Ireland despite the defeat.

With Williamson gone and New Zealand looking at a total of 200+, Little ran in with the dangerous new man Jimmy Neesham facing his first ball. He was gone moments later, missing a full, straight delivery that cannoned into his pad in front of middle stump. Seconds later Mitchell Santner departed in the same fashion as Little secured a hat-trick to finish the pick of the bowlers with figures of 3-22. Gareth Delany was next best with 2-30.

Despite the late fightback, 186 required for victory necessitated an excellent chase. The start was good, Stirling and Balbirnie picking gaps aplenty albeit without a flurry of early boundaries.

They reached the end of the powerplay without losing a wicket, deciding to take on New Zealand’s spin duo of Santner and Sodhi in a bid to hit an area of strength out of the game. It worked beautifully initially, their first two overs were wicketless and cost 29 runs.

The next six overs bowled by the pair cost the same amount of runs but also saw four wickets fall. The spinners adjusted brilliantly, taking all the pace off the ball as Balbirnie and Stirling were bowled, Tector chipped a slow, flighted delivery into the off side and Lorcan Tucker picked out a deep fielder down the ground.

That passage of play turned the game on its head, virtually ending any hopes of victory as Ireland had no answer to the slower bowling. Regular wickets continued to fall once the quicks returned as Lockie Ferguson ended with three scalps. George Dockrell managed to launch a series of blows over the off side but with the required rate consistently climbing, Ireland ultimately ended up nine wickets down and 36 runs short of their target.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist