Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Ireland - Brittle batting leaves door ajar. Brittle batting could leave Ireland vulnerable.
Brittle batting could leave Ireland vulnerable.
Ireland's rather unconvincing showing at the Qualifier that included defeats at the hands of the UAE, Canada and the Netherlands saw them qualify in third place behind the Dutch and Papua New Guinea. It is perhaps remarkable that one of the two Full Member sides in the group, and one boasting the lead T20I run-scorer over the past two years, are still seen as underdogs to qualify, yet the mood of the commentariat back on the Emerald Isle might be best described as “cautiously pessimistic.” This despite the fact that Ireland a comfortably the second-ranked side in the group on the ICC T20I rankings, and arrived in the Emirates coming off a 3-2 series win against Zimbabwe.
Nonetheless T20 remains Ireland's weakest format, and the “transitional phase” that followed the Irish golden generation of the early 2000's seems to have persisted far longer in the shortest form. The promotion of Kevin O'Brien to open with Paul Stirling paid dividends for a time, and it remains a successful partnership, though there is a sense that O'Brien, who retired from ODIs in June, may be nearing the end of his storied career. Skipper Andy Balbirnie adds some stability at number three, but the rest of the order remains muddled and – with the exception of Curtis Campher – prone to misfire, with late hitting especially has proved a persistent problem.
With the exception of the genuinely sharp Josh Little, who looks potentially set for a breakout tournament, the pace attack is more workmanlike than incisive, though given likely conditions that need not be an insurmountable weakness. Though left-armer George Dockrell plays primarily as a batsman these days, Simi Singh has grown into a capable senior spinner, developing an armoury of variations, and in Ben White Ireland may finally have found the wrist-spinner they have been lacking. Despite the downbeat attitude of their fans, Ireland are entirely capable of beating any of their three opponents on their day and coming up against a somewhat undercooked Dutch side first up could well find the early momentum they need to roll on to the Super 12s.
Danger man: Paul Stirling has been consistently Ireland's stand-out bat across formats in recent years, and indeed leads the world in T20I runs since 2019. Though the concern of the brittle batting behind him has led to him playing somewhat within himself at times, he remains one of the game's most dangerous batsmen once set, capable of taking the game out of reach of most any opposition.
Rising star: Josh Little has been around the Irish set-up for some time, making his debut as a 16 year-old back in 2016, but it's only in the last couple of years that the left-armer, having gained appreciable pace and control, has become the spearhead of the Irish attack.
Key question: Curtis Campher is the one dependable feature of Ireland's batting in the middle overs, and how he marshals the less settled bats in the Irish middle order may prove key. An in-form Campher could hold the brittle batting together for Ireland, but should his form falter the Irish card will look very fragile indeed.
Strengths:Stirling's menace at the top is Ireland's most obvious advantage, but a canny seam attack that works well together should not be underestimated. Ben White's promising but somewhat untested legspin adds a potential x-factor if the Irish are willing to risk him, and Simi Singh offers sufficient control in the slow bowling department that opposition will often struggle to accelerate once the field spreads.
Weaknesses:Despite a comparative wealth of warm-up matches Ireland have yet to put together a batting line-up that they can be confident in, with the lower middle order especially prone to stagnation and collapse. Even with wickets in hand death-hitting has proven an area of concern, with none of the potentially promising bats making the role of “finisher” their own. With a bowling attack that is capable but to a degree dependent on building pressure on the opposition to take wickets, lack of runs on the board or threat thereof if chasing may undermine Ireland's effort with the ball as much as the bat.
Past Highs and Lows:Ireland's victory over Bangladesh at the 2009 edition, inspired by skipper Trent Johnston and the brothers O'Brien seemed to announce their arrival as a serious force in the shortest format, but instead proved the T20 high-water-mark for the golden generation of Irish cricket. A winless outing in 2012 was followed by the (in)famous shellacking at the hands of the Dutch at Sylhet in 2014, and then an ignominious defeat to Oman two years later, effectively relegating Ireland back to the ranks of the so-called “minnows,” in the T20 format at least.
Ireland vs Netherlands – Abu Dhabi (Sheikh Zayed) -14:00, Monday October 18
Sri Lanka vs Ireland – Abu Dhabi (Sheikh Zayed) -18:00, Wednesday October 20 (D/N)
Namibia vs Ireland – Sharjah -14:00, Friday October 22