Pakistan overpower Ireland
Ireland's adventure at the ICC World Twenty20 ended today after a 39-run defeat to Pakistan, who qualified for the semi-finals, at The Oval.
Despite another respectable showing in the field against top-class opposition, the minnows' limitations with the bat were ruthlessly exposed.
William Porterfield's team restricted Pakistan to 159 for five and were competitive until the latter half of their own innings when the gulf in class was emphasised.
Paul Stirling, 18, and the more established Kevin O’Brien attempted some adventure against the new ball but the entire team managed only six boundaries between them. They lost only two wickets in the opening 13 overs but, after captain Porterfield succumbed for 40, they collapsed in a heap.
Once again it was Umar Gul who seized the initiative for Pakistan, following his extraordinary figures of 5-6 against New Zealand on the same ground this past weekend.
Fast bowler Gul was rewarded once again for his ability to send down searing yorkers at will. There was no repeat of the carnage he inflicted on New Zealand but the runs simply dried up as the Irish slipped from 87 for two to 120 for nine.
Gul hit the timber three times - one effort was redundant as it was from a free hit - as Ireland’s hitters Trent Johnston and Andrew White were meekly tamed.
With Ireland’s batsmen therefore forced to have a dash at the other end, off-spinner Saeed Ajmal profited with 4-19.
Pakistan now head Group F and, with a superior net run-rate to rivals Sri Lanka and New Zealand, will proceed to the semi-finals despite a slow start to the tournament.
Kamran Akmal shaped their innings with a composed 57, from 51 deliveries, but the Irish put in another impressive display with the ball to restrict the total on a good batting surface.
No other batsman managed more than 24 and regular wickets from the final over of the powerplay onwards limited the potential damage.
Warwickshire pace bowler Boyd Rankin produced a brilliant display and, although he went wicketless, his figures of 4-0-11-0 are likely to remain among the best in 20-over internationals for some time to come.
When Akmal and opening partner Shahzaib Hasan launched sixes in the fourth over, off Australian-born Johnston, Pakistan would have been eyeing a more comprehensive score.
But youngster Shahzaib lofted straight to mid-off to give seamer Alex Cusack - who took four wickets against Sri Lanka yesterday - an early success.
And off-spinner Kyle McCallan was twice rewarded for his disciplined approach by having big hitters Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq miscue.
Akmal, meanwhile, was yorked by the off-colour Johnston in the 17th over as Younus Khan’s team were restricted to 80 runs in the second half of the innings.
Akmal’s opposite number, wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien, passed a late fitness test to take his place for Ireland in their final Super Eights contest at this tournament.
Northamptonshire’s O’Brien, 27, has been dogged by an ankle injury throughout the past week and worsened the condition during yesterday’s nine-run defeat by Sri Lanka.
Ireland - needing a landslide win to resuscitate any hopes of reaching the last four - therefore made only one change, with teenager Stirling making his Twenty20 international debut in place of Andre Botha.