Ireland 160 for 6 (O'Brien 47, Joyce 46, Hutchinson 3-22) beat USA 96 (Rankin 4-9) by 64 runs
Boyd Rankin's outstanding figures of 4 for 9 which propelled Ireland to victory against USA emphasised his talent and also what a loss he'd be to Irish cricket if snapped up by England. After losing the two best batsmen they have ever produced to their full member neighbours over the past decade, Cricket Ireland are seriously concerned that the ECB has designs on its two best home-produced bowlers.
Rankin has already toured with England A and if he were to be picked for even a solitary limited overs game by Andy Flower he would be unable to play for Ireland for four years. How damaging that would be to Phil Simmons team has been revealed at this tournament where Rankin has broken his Twenty20 personal best on each of three successive days.
"This is the best I've ever seen him bowl," Ed Joyce, who also played for England before switching back to his native Ireland, said. "He's really got control of his line and length here, which on these wickets is very difficult for a bowler of his height. He's a much more hostile bowler too. I'm delighted for him because he's a really good lad who's worked hard for years and now it's all coming to fruition."
Against USA he was almost unplayable, taking four wickets in his four overs as Ireland cruised to a 64-run victory. His pace is a cut above anything else here and his height ensures plenty of problems for the batsmen. He tormented Aditya Mishra in a five-ball innings that will give him nightmares. Every delivery could have dismissed him and after two good lbw shouts he finally skied the ball high above the ICC Global Cricket Academy ground where Rankin collected his own catch.
Ireland won the toss, but lost William Porterfield early to a loose shot, and just as Paul Stirling looked to be finding his range he chased a wide delivery and bottom edged to Steven Taylor. Alex Cusack made to cut the next ball from the rangy left-arm medium-pacer Elmore Hutchinson and was bowled, leaving Ireland on 32 for 3.
Joyce, was promoted to No.3 where he bats best and when he was joined by Kevin O'Brien the pair rebuilt the innings in classic fashion.
"In Twenty20 I aim to get ten off the first ten balls, and when I went from five to ten with five overthrows I felt like I was in," Joyce said. "Kevin and myself bat well together - I can work it around and hit the odd boundary while he looks to hit a big ball. He twice hit sixes at the right time to take the pressure off."
Neither batsman has made a Twenty20 fifty for Ireland but both had passed their career bests and were close to the milestone when they fell. O'Brien had cleared the fence twice, off Asif Khan and Mishra, but was undone by Abhimanyu Rajp. The spinner parried a straight drive and with the ball lobbing through the air he dived to complete a fine catch for 47. Two overs later Joyce also fell, for 46, to a much more straightforward return catch by Rajp.
Gary Wilson has been batting well in this tournament and hit four boundaries before he carted Hutchinson straight to Muhammad Ghous at wide midwicket for 19.
A target of 150 was way beyond USA's comfort zone, even on this compact arena, especially when captain Sushil Nadkarni was run out early by a sharp Andrew White direct hit. Taylor took a liking to Trent Johnston, who was struggling to find his length and was the most expensive of the Irish attack. Rankin's second over was a double wicket maiden and when Baker carved Johnston to George Dockrell running around at third man the scoreboard read 29 for 4.
Wicketkeeper Taylor was dropped off Johnston by Porterfield, and followed that up with a huge six over midwicket. The Irish captain kept his big guns on and each picked up another wicket to end their joint spells on 52 for 7.
The trio of spinners picked up the baton but it was the least exalted who took the scalps. Hutchinson has an uncomplicated approach, and hit two fours and a six in his entertaining cameo as the tail succumbed. The maximum came off George Dockrell, another on Flower's radar, but whose contribution came in the shape of three outfield catches. Hutchinson had made 29 and was taking aim for his team's 100 when he missed a White delivery and was bowled.
USA have still to register a win in the tournament, but Ireland have settled well after their setback defeat to Namibia and now go into Sunday's key game against Scotland in good heart. "The Scottish game is massive," Joyce said, "it's always a big game for us and they've been playing good cricket too." With the ICC thoughtfully assigning the rest day to St Patrick's Day, the Irish will be celebrating their great national occasion still entertaining hopes of a trip to Sri Lanka.