Ireland qualify for World Twenty20 finals in Bangladesh

Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien help set massive target in Abu Dhabi

Paul Stirling hit 77 from 46 balls and took four wickets as Ireland beat Hong Kong by 85 runs to qualify for the World T20 finals in Bangladesh. Photograph:  2013 IDI/Getty Images

Paul Stirling hit 77 from 46 balls and took four wickets as Ireland beat Hong Kong by 85 runs to qualify for the World T20 finals in Bangladesh. Photograph: 2013 IDI/Getty Images

 

Ireland qualified for their fourth straight World Twenty20 finals with a comprehensive 85-run over Hong Kong in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

Phil Simmons’s men’s team will join the women’s side in Bangladesh in March and go straight through the semi-finals of the qualifier next Friday as they look to win the tournament after last year’s victory over Afghanistan.

Ireland’s batsmen have impressed all the way through the qualifiers and it was no different at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Sunday as they made 207 for four after winning the toss and batting.

It was their second time to go past 200 following last Wednesday’s record score of 216 for three against the United States.

Paul Stirling hit 77 from 46 balls, sharing in a 91-run opening stand with skipper William Porterfield (38 off 30). Kevin O’Brien kept up the momentum in the second half of the innings with an incredible display of hitting as he finished unbeaten on 62 from just 27 balls, with three fours and five sixes.

Hong Kong got off to a blistering start in their attempt to haul down the huge target and were 69 for one after the six powerplay overs.

The spinners again made the difference, with Stirling completing an incredible match by taking four wickets for just 10 runs from his four overs.

Left-armer George Dockrell took two for 18 from his allocation, while off-spinner James Shannon finished off the match with his first delivery as Hong Kong were bowled out for 122 in the 18th over.

Ireland will be joined by Afghanistan in Bangladesh after they won Group B with a victory over Kenya. Four more teams will qualify through a series of play-offs over the next four days.

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