In inconsequential round robin encounters at the ICC Cricket World Cup, Ireland ended its campaign with a six wicket win over the Netherlands while Sri Lanka crushed New Zealand by 112 runs. Ireland and Netherlands return home hoping to put up a stronger performance if they are given a chance to compete in the 2015 World Cup. Sri Lanka, by virtue of its win, ensured that they will finish at least second in the final standings in Group A.
At the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, Ireland skipper William Porterfield won the toss and decided to field first in the first day match at the ground in 20 years. Trent Johnston and Boyd Rankin provided the early breakthroughs as the Dutch batting stuttered to 12/2 in the third over. Ryan ten Doeschate revived the innings with valuable partnerships of 41 with Alexei Kervezee, 60 with Wesley Barresi and 121 with captain Peter Borren. Doeschate reached his century in the 39th over but was dismissed in the 40th over. Borren, in the company of Atse Buurman and Mudassar Bukhari steered them past 300 before four run-outs in four balls ended the Dutch innings at 306 in 50 overs.
Ireland’s chase was spectacular as William Porterfield and Paul Stirling put on 177 for the first wicket. Stirling revealed why he was being persisted with despite the batting failures of the previous games. At only 20 he has a pot belly, but beneath this burly physique is a man of immense talent. He showed his full repertoire of strokes as he was the dominant partner in the crucial opening stand. He collected a four, six and a four of successive balls in one Bernard Loots over as Ireland reached 81/0 at the end of the mandatory Powerplay.
Stirling continued in his attacking vein, the partnership swelled and Ireland had a steady go at the target. Though he lost his partner Porterfield in the 27th over, he did not lose his concentration and reached a well deserved century in the 28th over. He was, however, guilty of throwing his wicket away two balls later. Ed Joyce, Niall O’Brien, Gary Wilson and Kevin O’Brien all chipped in with useful runs to ensure a six wicket win for Ireland in the 48th over.
Ireland will go back with their heads held high having shown the ability to compete against the best. They will cherish their wins over England and the Netherlands but will be disappointed at not putting it across Bangladesh and West Indies. They are the strongest best for an Associate berth in the 2015 World Cup. The Netherlands started their campaign with a spirited display against England but was unable to sustain that level of high performance in their remaining matches. More exposure is what they need and that can only come with a change in ICC’s attitude towards the Associates.
In another match at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, New Zealand flattered only to deceive. Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat first. The start was disastrous as the in-form openers, Upul Tharanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan were back in the pavilion by the 5th over. They were lucky to have two experienced campaigners batting at No.3 and No. 4. The partnership between Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene was a classic example of how to build partnerships. They cut down the risks but were quick to punish the bad balls. Sangakkara was the first to reach 50 in the 27th over while Jayawardene followed suit in the 32nd over. The pair took the batting Powerplay in the 37th over but Jayawardene was soon trapped in front of the stumps by a full length delivery from Tim Southee. Sangakkara went from 80 to 100 in just six balls, his first century in almost three years.
The death overs signalled the death of the Sri Lankan batting. Sangakkara was bowled trying to slog sweep Nathan McCullum. Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga fell in successive overs as New Zealand bowled very well. Angelo Mathews ensured Sri Lanka crossed 260 and their innings ended at 265/9.
New Zealand’s chase never really took off as they lost wickets at regular intervals, particularly against the spinners. The only noteworthy partnership was the 49 between Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor for the third wicket. Once Ryder was dismissed off a carrom ball from Ajantha Mendis, the spinners took over the wicket taking job. New Zealand folded for 153 with Muralitharan the pick of the bowlers taking 4/25 despite being hampered by an injury.
Sri Lanka will be very happy with the way their bowlers responded but the same cannot be said of their batsmen. The lower middle order looks a little too brittle and they should seriously consider Chamara Kapugedera instead of Thilan Samaraweera. New Zealand never really applied themselves during the chase. It was a mystery that Jacob Oram walked into bat at No.9! Perhaps they should consider promoting Kane Williamson to No.3 and pull down Ryder to No.6. Their bowling was disciplined as always and with Vettori and Mills returning for the knock out stage, it will only be stronger. Both teams will now be geared up for the quarter finals and will seek to iron out the chinks before the knock out stage starts.