New Zealand 185 for 6 (Williamson 61, Allen 32, Little 3-22) beat Ireland 150 for 9 (Stirling 37, Ferguson 3-22, Santner 2-26, Southee 2-29, Sodhi 2-31) by 35 runs
Kane Williamson returned to form at just the right time, cracking 61 off 35 balls, as New Zealand became the first team to make it to the T20 World Cup semi-final. Although they crossed the line comfortably against Ireland, their status as one of the final four only became clear during the course of the second game at the Adelaide Oval on Friday. New Zealand's 35-run win lifted their net run rate to 2.113 and make them favourites to top Group 1.
Ireland had their moments in the game - they limited their opponents to only 12 runs off the last two overs courtesy a hat-trick from Josh Little, and openers Andy Balbirnie and Paul Stirling put on 68 off the first eight overs of their chase of 186 - but their challenge fizzled away against a skillful bowling attack.
New Zealand's effort with the ball was led by spin twins Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, whose accurate changes of pace teased and foxed the Ireland batters in the middle overs. But much before that, Williamson had responded to his critics, finishing with a strike rate of 174.28 despite a typically quiet start.
Conway gets stuck, Allen races away
Devon Conway struggled to get going on a pitch that seemed to be on the slower side. At the halfway stage of the innings, he had managed only 19 off 28 balls, which included 14 dots. Nothing he tried - making room, driving down the ground, lofting over the infield, and even nudging the ball around - seemed to click.
But his opening partner Finn Allen seemed to be batting on another pitch. Having scored six runs off his first eight balls, he pounced but the moment Ireland introduced spin, tucking into Gareth Delany in the fourth over. He hit three boundaries off the legspinner, going over mid-off, drilling a drive down the ground, and lofting over cover.
He hit Little for another four in the next over before hitting a six and a four back-to-back off Mark Adair in the final over of the powerplay. And just when it seemed he would take the game away from Ireland, he fell for 32 off 18, driving the next ball at a catchable height to mid-off.
Williamson hits back in crucial match
The innings began in typical Williamson fashion: he got to 15 off as many balls, with one boundary. But things started to change from the 11th over, when he attacked Fionn Hand, going over the bowler's head for four and then swinging a pull over the fine leg boundary.
Williamson got brief support from Glenn Phillips, whose cameo of 17 from nine balls helped build on the momentum, but the New Zealand captain took it upon himself to ensure his side ended with a competitive total. In a throwback to last year's T20 World Cup final where he had lifted New Zealand after a slow start, he reached his fifty like he had in Dubai, with a slog-sweep for six.
From 30 off 23 balls, he raised his tempo to reach his fifty off 32 balls - again, the same number of balls as in the 2021 final. The 18th over saw Williamson slog-sweep Barry McCarthy for six, hack him for four over short third, and again swing him over deep midwicket for six, before he became the first of three back-to-back wickets to fall to Little in the penultimate over.
Little's big show
Left-arm seamer Little continued to be the bright spark in a largely disappointing campaign for Ireland's bowlers. New Zealand were 174 for 3 with 11 balls remaining, and threatened to push past 200 when Little bagged his hat-trick, the second of this tournament after Karthik Meiyappan's effort for UAE against Sri Lanka in the first round.
Little banged one short at Williamson, who pulled only to find fine leg. Next ball, Little got a bit of luck going his way when a length ball kept a touch low to beat James Neesham's attempted leg-side swing and trap him in front. With nothing to lose, Neesham reviewed, but it was out of hope rather than belief that the lbw decision could be reversed. The hat-trick came when Little angled one into Santner, who missed a flick and reviewed the ensuing lbw decision, only for replays to confirm that the ball was on course to crash into middle stump.
Little ended the tournament with 11 wickets, and became only the second bowler from Ireland to bag a hat-trick in T20Is after Curtis Campher's four off four balls against Netherlands at last year's T20 World Cup.
Santner, Sodhi turn the screws
Stirling and Balbirnie got Ireland off to a stable start. The powerplay brought only 39 runs, but the gears began to shift when Williamson introduced spin. Stirling helped himself to a four and a a six in the seventh over, Santner's first, before Balbirnie clubbed Sodhi for two sixes in the eighth; those two overs brought Ireland 29 runs.
But Santner changed tack in the ninth over, slowing the ball down in the air, and Balbirnie chopped on first ball. Sodhi then cleaned Stirling up with a googly to start the tenth over, before Harry Tector spooned a catch to point off a loopy and slow Santner ball in the 11th.
From the ninth over on, Santner and Sodhi combined to bowl five overs and concede just 26 runs, while nabbing three wickets. That passage of play derailed Ireland, who kept losing regular wickets to finish on 150 for 9.