Ireland scare Pakistan but another low total costs them at T20 World Cup

Ireland’s batting has failed to live up to its billing pre-tournament

Ireland's Barry McCarthy bowls during the Twenty20 World Cup Group A match against Pakistan at Broward County Stadium in Lauderhill, Florida. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

T20 World Cup: Ireland 106-9 (20 ovs) (G Delany 31, J Little 22no; I Wasim 3-8, SS Afridi 3-22, M Amir 2-11) lost to Pakistan 111-7 (18.5 ovs) (B Azam 32no; B McCarthy 3-15, C Campher 2-24) by 3 wkts

Ireland’s underwhelming T20 World Cup campaign came to an end with defeat, batting collapses on both sides ensured a thrilling finish that saw Pakistan secure a narrow three-wicket victory at Lauderhill in Florida.

Both sides had already been knocked out of the tournament, giving Sunday a dead-rubber status. Both teams have questions to answer and reviews to conduct into why their respective campaigns were so disappointing. Despite the defeat, Ireland’s fightback with the ball after posting a meagre total of 106 ensures they restored some face in a contest which threatened to be a shellacking.

After being asked to bat at the toss, accusing the Irish batters of already being on Monday’s flight home would be lazy analysis. Yet such was the rampant nature of Pakistan’s start, taking four wickets inside the first three overs at the cost of just 16 runs, that Ireland have left themselves open to that accusation.


With the ball at least, some damage control was done against that charge. Barry McCarthy’s double wicket maiden, combined with good catches from Mark Adair, Lorcan Tucker and George Dockrell did build ample Pakistani nerves. In a three-over span during their chase, the victors lost four wickets for just 10 runs. Their captain Babar Azam (32 not out) ultimately saw them home despite a flurry of wickets at the other end.

Sunday’s display wraps up what has been a disastrous return from the Irish batters over the last fortnight. In their three matches which were not weather affected in the US, they have mustered totals of 96, 125 and 106. The context of a shoddy New York pitch and an on-song Pakistan bowling attack is important. The bare fact remains, however, that the Irish batting unit – rated as their stronger suit prior to the tournament – has fallen a long way short of covering itself in glory.

Sunday’s caveats at the Broward County Stadium start and end with Shaheen Shah Afridi. The tall left-arm quick can embarrass any batting line-up on his day. After a mixed display when these teams met in Clontarf last month, this time Shaheen branded Ireland as his victims.

Andrew Balbirnie was bowled on the third ball of the match with a beauty which nipped back through the gate. In the same over, Lorcan Tucker nicked a delivery which moved the other way. Too good.

Pakistan's players celebrate after winning during the game. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

After Mohammad Amir’s extra bounce took Paul Stirling’s edge, Shaheen trapped Harry Tector LBW with the latest of a series of toe-crushing yorkers. Tector should have reviewed his decision, given the ball pitched outside leg. He did, however, nick one two deliveries prior and was given not out. In this case, two wrongs made a right.

Ireland were 32 for five at the end of the six-over powerplay. The game looked up, even if Gareth Delany launched three magnificent sixes in his impressive cameo of 31 off 19 deliveries. Josh Little had some fun with a series of blows while Ben White’s unbeaten 20 ball vigil at least helped Ireland to bat their full 20 overs.

Pakistan’s middle order has been pilloried at this World Cup for their inability to score the required runs. They almost fell short again, McCarthy and Curtis Campher doing plenty of damage when finding zip off the surface. The nervy endgame did provide some welcome entertainment, but Ireland ultimately didn’t have enough runs. They weren’t helped by Josh Little’s leg injury leaving them a bowler light.

With the disappointing World Cup campaign now over, any postmortem will reveal factors which both absolve and attach blame to the Irish players. The sour taste of the pure results will linger into the rest of a sparse Irish summer. Only one further men’s match will be played on home soil this season, a Test against Zimbabwe at the end of July. The domestic interpros don’t return until August. Ireland women also don’t feature until August – albeit there are domestic games – a gap of over two months from their most recent outing.

The main cause of the men’s gap is the cancellation of a prospective visit of Australia for financial reasons. On Friday, Scotland, a country with a lower global status and funding programme than Ireland, announced they would instead host the 50-over world champions in September. Scotland also have found a backer for a domestic franchise competition, something for which Ireland have pined since 2019. Scotland performed much better than Ireland at this World Cup, flirting with victories over England – who snuck through to the Super Eights after a rain-affected win over Namibia – and Australia.

Despite the death of their American dream, this group of Irish players is in a reasonably good state. Staring into a significant cricket vacuum, though, without the positivity of a World Cup scalp or two, these issues will dominate the sport’s narrative.

Irish cricket is in a strange place. Not dire, but not happy either.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist