Canada 156/5 (Dhaliwal 69, Nitish Kumar 53, Boyd Rankin 2/32) defeated Ireland 146/7 (Thompson 28*, Stirling 23, Saad Bin Zafar 2/31) by 10 runs.
Canada has proven its T20 World Cup Qualifier credentials with a 10 run win over Ireland in Abu Dhabi.
The result moves Canada level with Oman at the top of group B, with a match in hand on the team from the Sultanate. Conversely, Ireland with a 2-2 record are now entrenched in a three-way fight with Jersey and UAE for two spots to progress.
Navneet Dhaliwal won the toss and elected to bat at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, and was joined by Rizwan Cheema to open the batting.
Dhaliwal imposed himself on the game early, making the most of width given by Mark Adair in the first over. Though after slashing the fourth ball of the innings over wide mid-off for a boundary, the slow nature of the pitch was telling in Canada’s sluggish start.
Continuing to swing away in frustration, Rizwan Cheema’s stay was ended by the injection of David Delany. Looking to give himself room to play on the off-side, Cheema was unraveled by pace, and his leg stump was cannoned into.
Nitish Kumar entered at number three under scoreboard pressure, though looked unperturbed early, flicking his first ball for a single to open his account. Dhaliwal took to the extra pace of Delany, with a powerful, textbook off-drive relieving the pressure. Delany replied with a sharp bouncer, and the cat and mouse continued as Dhaliwal turned away in Delany’s run-up for the last ball of the over.
The combination of Dhaliwal and Kumar proved effective in the middle overs with the run rate rising in spite of the extra fielders allowed outside the circle. Dhaliwal bombed George Dockrell over long-on in the seventh over, with Nitish showing his class by going inside-out to drive Gareth Delany over cover in the eighth.
The pair passed their fifty partnership within six overs through the mix of power and touch, as Dhaliwal punished both Delany cousins. Jumping on Gareth’s occasional drag-downs, Dhaliwal welcomed the 90mph of David. Slogging to long-on for six, Dhaliwal brought up his fifty with an uncharacteristic, scurried two. Dhaliwal, with his name chanted in the stands, saluted his teammates.
Nitish fed Dhaliwal the strike with touch in what was a nice juxtaposition of his own bludgeoning knock earlier in the tournament – an effort of 83 from 36 balls against Jersey. His shot to bring up the hundred partnership was almost a mix of both modes, as his reverse scoop sailed over the third man fielder inside the circle.
Mark Adair spilled a chance to claim Dhaliwal off Stuart Thompson, though the Canadian skipper failed to make them pay, after finding Tector in the deep next over. Nitish snuck to 50 after just 34 balls, only to fall to Boyd Rankin, similarly finding Tector in the deep.
The loss of the pair scuppered Canada’s late-innings flurry, as Ireland’s variation of pace and the slow pitch proved difficult for new batsmen. Only 32 runs were compiled in the last five overs, with Canada setting Ireland 157 to win.
Paul Stirling was given width from Romesh Eranga with the first ball of Ireland’s innings, failing to put away the chance. Tucking the next ball away off his hips, Kevin O’Brien took guard, driving his first ball on the up for four.
The boundary brought a change in the field, which proved to be a Canadian masterstroke. O’Brien picked out Nicholas Kirton, who was pushed back on the forward-point boundary.
Going with form, Ireland kept Gareth Delany at three, despite the return of Andrew Balbirnie. Slashing his fourth ball for six over backward point, Delany looked to be vindicating the team’s decision.
Though it was two moments of inspiration in the fifth over that turned the game in Canada’s favour. The ever-present Nitish Kumar pulled off an athletic run out of Delany, before Saad Bin Zafar castled Andrew Balbirnie attempting to cut a ball too full and straight. Saad stuffed Stirling in his next over, albeit with the help of some quick hands from Hamza Tariq, who took a difficult top edge chance.
Canada had Ireland by the scruff of the neck at 60/4 after 8 overs, though failed to finish the match off, relieving the pressure on several occasions with mistakes in the field. Saad was deemed to have broken the stumps before completing a run out chance of Harry Tector, and it led to leaked runs through lackadaisical efforts from his teammates. Despite this, Canada worked their magic with ball in hand. Nikhil Dutta and Hamza Tariq combined in a stumping by outfoxing Tector, while Jeremy Gordon’s effort ball did skipper Gary Wilson for pace.
Ten an over for the last six overs was required for Ireland to pull off an escape, though the pace of the pitch made life difficult for Mark Adair and Stuart Thompson who were left to patch the chase together. Adair picked out Nitish Kumar who could do no wrong, leaving George Dockrell and Thompson to try and pull of a miraculous win.
A hook shot off Dion Heyliger for six from Thompson gave the Irish a sliver of hope, though the target was never in realistic reach for the lower order. Needing 19 off the last over, Heyliger and his side showed calmness to see the match out, conceding 8 to claim a vital win.
A scorecard of the match can be found here.
Written by Daniel Beswick.