Stirling Fifty Helps Ireland, Passes; Nepal; Oman, At The Head Of > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Stirling fifty helps Ireland thumps Nepal; Oman move to the top

Stirling scored 59 as Ireland posted a competitive total against Nepal

Ireland held off Nepal to defend a somewhat sub-par total of 145-8 in the morning game, Mark Adair and George Dockrell starring with the ball, each taking three wickets as an initially controlled Nepal chase unravelled. Hosts Oman leapfrogged the Irish back into pole position in the afternoon however, with Khawar Ali and skipper Zeeshan Maqsood prompting an increasingly rickety-looking Dutch batting line-up into a remarkable collapse. Ali took a wicket with each of his first three balls as the Netherlands were spun out for just 94, which the hosts chased comfortably to go top of the table with one game still to play.

Ireland started and finished strongly in their sea-saw match against Nepal as Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie put on a brisk partnership of 88 for the second wicket to take Ireland to 95-1 in the 12th over. Sandeep Lamichanne had removed danger-man Kevin O'Brien cheaply in the second over, but Nepal came back strong at the back end of the innings. Left arm spinner Lalit Rajbanshi had Balbirnie stumped for 38 off 28 and Harry Tector was run out two balls later to arrest the flow of runs. The Irish found the boundary just once in the next seven overs, losing 5 more wickets for just 29 additional runs. Some late hitting from Stuart Thompson saw them take some momentum back to the changing rooms, Thompson taking two sixes and a total of 18 runs off Karan KC's final over to see his side post a respectable 145 by the close.

Nepal initially looked to have the chase well in hand as skipper Paras Khadka drove the scoring early with 25 off 14 before being caught off Adair in the 5th over. The rest of the Nepal top order also got starts as DS Airee and Aarif Sheikh took them to three figures with five overs remaining. Airee, however, got a leading edge back low into the hands of Dockrell on the penultimate ball of the 15, and two more wickets fell in the next as Binod Bhandari was run out and Sheikh edged Adair through to the keeper a ball later. From thereon Ireland were in the ascendancy. With Sompal Kami and Sundeep Jora caught off consecutive Dockrell deliveries in the following over the chase drifted. Nepal were seemingly relying on Karan KC to pull off a similar last-gasp counterattack to the one he'd staged against the Netherlands in their previous match. It was not to be, however, despite a spirited effort from Karan - he was well caught on the rope in the final over trying to hit Adair for a third consecutive boundary - and Nepal wound up 13 runs short.

The Netherlands did not even get that close in the afternoon game as they continued their atrocious run in T20s, sinking to an 8-wicket defeat to the still-unbeaten hosts, having now lost nine of their last ten T20Is over the last two months. Once again the Dutch looked decent enough in the powerplay after winning the toss and electing to bat, though they had lost both openers Visee and O'Dowd by the end of the sixth over with 42 runs on the board. Once again they lost their way as the field spread, and the introduction of Khawar Ali for the tenth over effectively broke the back of the innings. The legspinner struck with each of his first three balls - Tonny Staal skewing a length ball high into the off side, Colin Ackermann slapping a short, widish delivery straight to point, and Roelof van der Merwe pinned LBW pushing forward - making him the first bowler ever to bag a hat-trick with his first three deliveries in a T20I.

Any hopes of a recovery were snuffed out in the next over as Maqsood had his opposite number Pieter Seelaar caught behind before beating Shane Snater all ends up with his next delivery to leave the Dutch in a mess at 75-7 after 11 overs. Ali and Maqsood finished with 4 wickets apiece as the Dutch tail duly capitulated five runs short of the hundred-mark. With just 95 runs to defend, the Netherlands could not afford any mistakes, much less two in the second over. Yet both Khawar Ali and Aaqib Ilyas were dropped off Fred Klaassen in the space of three deliveries, before going on to rack up a 64-run partnership that effectively sealed the win. Left arm spinners van der Merwe and Seelaar made the hosts work for the win, the former giving up barely 4 runs per over and the latter bagging two of the three wickets to fall, as well as contributing to the other with a fine catch off van Meekeren, but the Omanis were largely untroubled by the rest of the seam attack, eventually romping home with almost five overs to spare.

Barring a cataclysmic defeat at the hands of Nepal tomorrow, wiping out their substantial net run rate advantage, the Red Brigade look well set to claim the series honours, while the Dutch have only a wooden spoon playoff against equally winless Hong Kong to look forward to before moving on to the UAE where the real business of the winter - the T20 WC Qualifier - begins next week.

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