Connell stuns Worcestershire
Ireland 152 (McCallan 40, Whelan 3-22) beat Worcestershire 58 (Mitchell 15, Connell 5-19) by 94 runs
Ireland finally broke their duck in the Friends Provident Trophy in remarkable style, dismissing Worcestershire for just 58 - their lowest-ever total in one-dayers - to end their campaign on a winning note ahead of their first appearance in the ICC World Twenty20 next month. The result ended Worcestershire's hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals and, though this victory was essentially meaningless for Ireland, it nevertheless boosts their confidence in what has otherwise been a disappointing tournament.
Hampshire and Nottinghamshire progress to the next round from Group A, leaving Worcestershire stunned at their brisk capitulation to Peter Connell, a strapping fast-bowler from New Zealand, whose 5 for 19 in seven overs was a career-best. To compound Worcestershire's disappointment, their target was a meagre 153.
Vikram Solanki was first to depart, edging a lifter from Connell behind for 7, shortly followed by Stephen Moore who made just 2. Moeen Ali was bowled for a duck, and when Connell had Stephen Davies caught at mid-off for 12, Worcestershire had slipped to 21 for 5. Gareth Batty was trapped in front two balls later to hand Connell his fifth. In four overs, he claimed the remarkable figures of 5 for 8.
The final wicket came with the third ball of the 20th over, when Trent Johnston, the former captain, drew Matt Mason into a waft outside the off stump. Johnston had earlier cracked 39 from 63 balls in a rousing seventh-wicket stand with Kyle McCallan worth 57, just one run less than Worcestershire managed. It was the hosts' lowest-ever score in one-day cricket, falling comfortably short of their 70 all out against Gloucestershire in 2002's B&H Cup.
Pleased though Ireland will be ahead of their first outing in the ICC World Twenty20 next month, their performance in this year's Friends Provident Trophy, and those of their neighbours, Scotland, have been a great disappointment. When William Porterfield lifted the ICC World Cup Qualifiers trophy in April, Ireland were confident enough to whisper the T word; the once-lofty ambition to play Test cricket appeared, if not quite in reach, then certainly achievable within ten years rather than 20. They have Bangladesh in their sights for the World Twenty20, too.
One good win alongside seven poor-to-middling performances is not an encouraging sign, however, and serves as a cautionary tale for Associate nations' aspirations. Ireland and Scotland are the envy of other Associates for their involvement in England's domestic competitions. Yet, in losing the cream of the crop - Eoin Morgan (England, Middlesex), William Porterfield (Gloucestershire), and Niall O'Brien (Northamptonshire) to name but three - to the richer English clubs, they will remain disconcertingly hamstrung.
Will Luke is assistant editor of Cricinfo