New Zealand's surge avoids Irish upset
New Zealand 305 for 7 (Southee 94) beat Ireland (Morgan 124) by 3 wickets
This tournament has come close to producing an upset on a couple of occasions before the favourite has squeezed through, and today Ireland appeared to be en route to inflict a heavy defeat of New Zealand. Eoin Morgan's outstanding 124 powered Ireland past 300 and when their opponents were 150 for 4, with the asking rate over eight, the Irish were eyeing a famous win. However, a display of hugely powerful hitting from Tim Southee, and a determined 87 from Andrew de Boorder, carried New Zealand across the line in a blaze of boundaries, with four balls to spare.
The pair took advantage of an attack that wilted under the heat and against the onslaught, regularly finding the rope and often going over it. In a strange decision from Morgan he refused to bring back his strike bowler, Niall McDarby, who had taken 6 for 50 against England earlier in the tournament, until the game was well within New Zealand's grasp.
Although McDarby did strike late on, it was not enough to steal the match back at the end. Ireland will be ruing a couple of missed chances, including a vital stumping against de Boorder when he was on 16. However, nothing can be taken away from Kiwi comeback.
It was an extraordinary display from Southee, who was pencilled in to bat at No. 9 and had been taken for 71 in his ten overs. Following his scorching 92 from 54 balls he said he had been sent out with a license to have a swing. "The coach came to me and said `put your pads on' so I went in higher than usual. There were a few dot balls to start with but then I found the middle of the bat. It was case of working in 20-run blocks and eventually we got there."
Although the heat has been a factor throughout the tournament -de Boorder needed a runner for cramp - today was the toughest so far for the players. Southee said they were the hardest conditions he had never played in. de Boorder's innings was a vital foil and he showed real determination to battle through cramp. Realising he would find it difficult to clear the ropes, he fed his partner the strike who had no such problems.
Morgan was distraught following the defeat, and with every reason after playing one of the finest innings of the tournament. "We thought 304 would have been a winning score," he said. "We didn't field as well as we can; a couple of saved boundaries here or there would have made the difference." His 124 was studded with crunching strokes off front and back foot, which showed the class that has earned him a place on the Middlesex staff. On the evidence of this knock it won't be long until he is joining his fellow countryman, Ed Joyce, and forming an Irish middle order at Lord's.
Morgan's stand of 160 with Andrew Poynter, whose 75 became rather overshadowed, put Ireland on course for their imposing total. New Zealand were also careless in the field, while all the bowlers - except for Supersub Hamish Bennett - suffered on the flat and easy-paced pitch.
When Bennett struck with consecutive deliveries to remove Fintan McAllister and Gary Wilson, a bright Ireland start was threatening to evaporate. Morgan, though, stood firm to repair the damage, then began to cut loose. The conditions were so draining that he barely had the energy to drag himself off the pitch after falling towards the end of the innings.
As he raised his bat around the ground he must have thought he'd done enough to put Ireland on course for a memorable scalp. As New Zealand went through a round of high fives and back-slapping with their batting stars, the dejected Irish faces told a different story.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo