Ireland 109-0 in 9.3 overs (Stirling 61*, Porterfield 42*) beat Canada 106-8 in 20 overs (R Gunasekera 26, Dockrell 3-19) by 10 wickets
Ireland have stormed through their first game in the knockout phase of the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in Dubai with a facile ten-wicket win over Canada. With stiffer obstacles ahead - Netherlands are next - Ireland will not be complacent but were comfortably superior to the opposition in all departments.
When a wide outswinger from Trent Johnston tempted Hiral Patel to drive and edge to slip, it was the fifth time Ireland had taken a wicket in the first over in their eight games here. Ireland's pace pair has been a key element in their seven-match winning streak and so it was in this game. Johnston was given the Man of the Match accolade for his 2 for 9 from four overs.
"The more games we play, the better I'm getting," he said. "I didn't get a lot of wickets early on in the tournament but I like bowling here. It reminds me of Australian type pitches as there's a bit in it early on. As a bowler you know there's always something there if you're prepared to bend your back."
Canada opted to bat after winning the toss but only Ruvindu Gunasekera bedded down in the face of Johnston and Boyd Rankin's probing. Max Sorensen took a pasting in his first over, going for three boundaries, but redeemed himself on his return with a wicket maiden as the Canada captain Rizwan Cheema tried to clip him over mid-on. Sorensen, who was born in South Africa, took 3 for 7 off his last three overs, after a mixed start to the tournament.
"Max's problem at the moment is he's probably trying too hard," Johnston said. "When he gets in and relaxes he bowls his areas and today he picked up three wickets. I'm rooming with him at the moment and we talk a lot of cricket and he wants to learn, which is great. It looks good for Irish cricket that you've got guys like him coming through."
Ireland's fielders ensured there were ten boundary-free overs in the middle of the innings, while George Dockrell also enjoyed success for his best figures of the tournament. William Porterfield, the captain, has used his spinners at the death, and they both bowled economically here. Canada's only other batting success was Tyson Gordon, a half-brother to West Indies A player Andre Creary. Gordon hit three boundaries as he marshalled the tail towards three figures, which arrived with just three balls left in the innings. "Our batsmen didn't apply themselves well," Cheema said afterwards, "a hundred on this wicket is nothing."
Ireland's target was quickly reduced in the first over as Paul Stirling teed off. The Middlesex man started the tournament slowly but had made 46 and 35 in his last two knocks. There was no doubt about him reaching his fifty here, which he did in 21 balls. It was the fastest fifty scored for Ireland in any form of the game - breaking his opening partner Porterfield's record of 23 set against Kenya eight days ago.
Porterfield helped himself at the other end, as the pair hit 20 deliveries over the ropes in less than ten savage overs. It was the highest partnership for any wicket for Ireland in T20 cricket, and their second century stand, with Johnston putting Stirling's display down to a talk from coach Phil Simmons.
"That's exactly what we wanted from Paul from day one," Johnston said. "He had a chat with Simmo last night which gave him that confidence to go out there and do that. That's his job up front - to hit the ball out of the stadium. I hope he can continue doing it 'til Saturday night."
Porterfield agreed: "Stirlo hit 15 off the first over with pretty clean hitting and that put them right on the back foot. Proper shots are crucial in this form of the game, and you can't get carried away. It's a tricky form of the game, one ball clears long off and the next ball he's caught at mid off, that's just the way Paul plays."
Stirling's Middlesex team-mate Tim Murtagh arrived in the emirate on Wednesday night and has been officially drafted into the Ireland squad as a replacement for the injured Alex Cusack, who failed a fitness test on a hamstring injury. Johnston's knee was on ice after the game as he complained of soreness and the unrelenting ICC schedule which could see Ireland play 11 games in 12 days.
Cheema was upbeat, even after Canada's defeat. "We have a young team and we can take lots of positives from the tournament," he said. "A lot of the youngsters came up with good performances." Canada will now play Scotland for fifth place.
Edited by Alan Gardner