Balbirnie century helps keep Ireland World Cup hopes alive

Hopes of making 2019 World Cup will go down to final game against Afghanistan

 Ireland batsman Andrew Balbirnie drives the ball  square of the wicket on the way to making a century in the World Cup qualifier against Scotland at Harare Sports Club. Photograph: Julian Herbert-IDI/IDI via Getty Images

Ireland batsman Andrew Balbirnie drives the ball square of the wicket on the way to making a century in the World Cup qualifier against Scotland at Harare Sports Club. Photograph: Julian Herbert-IDI/IDI via Getty Images

 

Ireland kept their hopes of qualifying for the 2019 Cricket World Cup alive in Harare on Sunday after they ended Scotland’s unbeaten run in the tournament with a 25-run victory.

The result keeps alive Ireland’s chances of taking one of the two spots on offer but they must now beat Afghanistan next Friday and hope a few results in the other remaining Super Sixes games go their way.

Andrew Balbirnie ended a poor run with the bat in stunning fashion, making 105 in Ireland’s total of 271 for nine, sharing vital partnerships with the O’Brien brothers Niall and Kevin.

Niall O’Brien made a run-a-ball 70 in a third-wicket stand of 138, proving the perfect foil to the more circumspect innings of Balbirnie.

Balbirnie survived a number of scares to go on and score his second ODI century before departing at the end of the 45th over with the score on 241.

Kevin O’Brien was still at the wicket and looked set to push Ireland towards a total of 300 but he went at the end of the 46th over, his 46 runs coming off just 27 balls and including five fours and two sixes.

Ireland then suffered a late collapse, losing four more wickets and failing to score a boundary in the last four overs.

Kyle Coetzer looked like he was going to play a match-defining innings when he went after Ireland bowler Boyd Rankin as Scotland started their reply.

The 6’ 8” Irish bowler would have the final say in his second spell, when a length delivery stayed low to remove Coetzer’s off pole after he had made 61 from 70 balls.

Rankin would go on to take four wickets, while opening bowlers Tim Murtagh and Barry McCarthy took two apiece. It was Ireland’s off-spinners that proved key in slowing down Scotland, with Simi Singh taking two wickets for 33 off his 10 overs and Andrew McBrine bowling well without taking a wicket to finish with figures of none for 40.

There were a number of outstanding catches that proved crucial, with Balbirnie plucking one on the boundary rope and avoiding stepping on it to catch the dangerous Calum MacLeod off the bowling of Singh for 21.

The benefit of having two wicket-keepers in the side was shown in Gary Wilson’s brilliant two-handed effort to dismiss opener Matthew Cross , while Niall O’Brien added to his vital innings with two world-class catches behind the stumps, sealing victory when he dived high to his right to snare an edge from Brad Wheal’s bat off Rankin.

Ireland captain William Porterfield was thrilled to see his side get back to winnings ways but admitted that it didn’t take much to motivate the side after their poor batting performance in the defeat to Zimbabwe.

“I didn’t have to say a lot to the team – we knew we had to turn up today and get the two points to stay in the running.”

“What was most pleasing was getting back with the bat. To post a total and then go out and defend it was highly pleasing for the team.”

“Going into the next match, we obviously need some results to go our way during the week, and if that’s in place then we’ve got to be ready come Friday. We’ve had a few good tussles with Afghanistan recently, so looking forward to a good game.”

Man of the match Balbirnie said: “In the last 10 we would have liked a bit more, but after the batting performance on Saturday we wanted to put in a solid performance on a pitch that was playing a bit slow.”

“I just wanted to start well and stay in. I haven’t had a great run so far – I’ve had a couple of dismissals that weren’t like me, but today I had a bit of a rub of the green – St Patrick’s weekend and all that. I just managed to kick on and it was great to get a total on the board for the team.”

Ireland 271-9 (50 ovs ) (A Balbirnie 105, N O’Brien 70, K O’Brien 46; B Wheal 3-43), Scotland 246 (K Coetzer 61, R Berrington 44, S Sharif 34; B Rankin 4-63, S Singh 2-33, B McCarthy 2-44, T Murtagh 2-51). Ireland won by 25 runs.

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