Calm Morgan steers Ireland home
Ireland 223 for 4 (O'Brien 89*, Morgan 84*) beat Canada 220 (Barnett 49, Davison 41, Rankin 2-36) by six wickets
Eoin Morgan's mature and calculated 84, and a free-spirited 89 from Kevin O'Brien, led Ireland to a convincing six-wicket win, condemning Canada to their first loss of the tournament. Though both sides are already through to the Super 8s, which get underway on Saturday, Ireland carry through important points into the next and final phase of the competition.
Today's performance by Ireland epitomised their growing stature in Associate cricket, and it was no surprise that Morgan - a full-time professional with Middlesex, whom he helped win the Twenty20 Cup last year - was there at the end. His and O'Brien's superb partnership of 181 was pitted with confident boundaries and urgent running, a combination that left Canada looking beaten long before the result was certain. Such is their flaky confidence.
Yet it was Canada who held the upper hand early in Ireland's chase of 221, reducing them to 42 for 4. Sunil Dhaniram, who had earlier dropped William Porterfield, safely held Gary Wilson at third man off Henry Osinde before Geoff Barnett took a fine and low catch at cover to remove Porterfield in the next over off Umar Bhatti. Bowling full and straight, as the pitch demanded, Bhatti found one to sneak through Niall O'Brien's defence and when Alex Cusack was caught behind for a duck, Ireland were limping on 42 for 4.
Enter Morgan. After spending 18 balls on nought, he soon clipped two off his hip and quickly moved up the gears, lifting Khurram Chohan over extra cover for consecutive boundaries. After bringing up his fifty from 71, he took a shine to Balaji Rao who he rocked back and cut for two more gorgeous fours. Canada's bowlers lacked the disciplined required against such a high-quality batsman, frequently dropping short and wide.
O'Brien played second fiddle to Morgan but he too eventually opened his arms, smacking John Davison over midwicket for a huge six to bring up a 60-ball fifty. Ireland only needed a further 70 from 21 overs and cruised home with 54 balls to spare, giving Canada a much-needed wakeup call. Their fielding, in particular, lacked spark and they were quickly put on the backfoot by the unerring placement of Morgan and the farmyard-whacking of O'Brien.
Ireland's performance in the field was by no means flawless, however. John Davison survived a couple of near-misses with his favoured lofted drives and was dropped by Kevin O'Brien in his follow-through when on 23. In between, Davison unleashed his usual array of savage drives and an extraordinary pull off Pete Connell which knocked the batsman off his balance. Geoff Barnett top-scored with 49 but Canada were guilty of poor shot selection, and Ireland clawed back the momentum impressively in the second half of their innings, reducing them from 174 for 4 to 220 all out. Three impressively slick run-outs iced Ireland's cake, and again Boyd Rankin bowled with genuine pace and bounce.
Will Luke is assistant editor of Cricinfo