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John Ward in Belfast
August 2, 2008
Ireland 118 for 6 (Botha 38, White 11*) beat Scotland 117 (Cusack 4-21, Botha 3-18) by 4 wickets
Low-scoring matches are not usually very exciting as they tend to be one-sided, but the game between the Celtic rivals ended up a thriller. Ireland, after dismissing Scotland cheaply, eventually scraped home by four wickets with one ball to spare, after coming so close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Scotland batted on winning the toss, and the captain Ryan Watson gave his team a flying start, especially considering that in his last two international matches, at Aberdeen a month ago, he had failed to score a run. He laid into Kevin O'Brien in his second over with 14 runs off four balls, including a big six over midwicket, before driving a catch to mid-on; he made 24 off 15 balls. Some rather frenetic batting followed, with Gavin Hamilton skying a catch and Colin Smith bowled attempting a big heave, and within minutes Scotland were 31 for 3. Ireland could have had another on 45 when Kyle Coetzer was dropped low at midwicket, but on 52 he was bowled by Andre Botha for 11. They were still on 52 for 4 after 10 overs.
At 63 both batsmen were at the same end, but their error was exceeded by that of the fielders, who let them escape. But then the two batting culprits, Neil McCallum and Richie Berrington, began to settle in and increase the rate, until at 92 the latter (17) sent up a huge skier to be caught by the keeper. Without addition McCallum (27) fell to a more conventional keeper's catch, and Scotland were 92 for 6 after 16 overs. Botha took 3 for 18 as he ended his spell.
Two lbw decisions for Alex Cusack followed, and the 100 only came up in the eighth over. Cusack returned figures of 4 for 21 for his seamers, and the innings ground to a rather dismal conclusion at 117 all out off the last possible ball. Basically, it was the story of Scottish batsmen committing suicide against good Irish bowling, backed by inconsistent Irish fielding. Twenty20 cricket is geared towards suicidal batting, but there are more efficient ways of doing it.
John Blain soon worked up a good pace when Ireland began chasing their relatively simple target, but Gary Wilson, after looking quite out of his depth for nine balls, then flicked him over square leg for six. At the other end, though, Dewald Nel bowled Will Porterfield for 7.
The spinners were soon in action again, with the left-armer Glenn Rogers bowling Wilson for 14. Scotland badly missed running out Niall O'Brien a few balls later, and after 10 overs Ireland were by no means finding it easy with only 47 runs on the board for two wickets.
The batsmen began to push harder, and Botha hit a ball from off-spinner Gregor Maiden for an impressive six over extra cover. O'Brien became bogged down and was eventually given out caught at the wicket for 22: there is no 'walking' in this tournament, apparently, by the innocent or the guilty.
33 were still needed off the last five overs, and Kevin O'Brien was easily stumped leaping down the pitch to drive. Unfortunately, Rogers injured his right calf in the process and had to leave the field. The 100 came up in the 18th over, so the match was still tight. Botha was bowled for 38, attempting a slog, and Trent Johnson, attempting a six, was caught in the deep; 105 for 6 in the penultimate over. Scotland were bowling and fielding well, and Ireland needed eleven runs off the last over.
Andrew White scooped the first ball, from Gordon Drummond, to fine leg for four, relieving some of the pressure. Then came ones and a two, the second being a missed run-out opportunity. Finally White swung another ball to the fine-leg boundary and Ireland sneaked what should have been a straight-forward victory. Nel (2 for 17) and Rogers (2 for 15) played a major part in Scotland's fightback.
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