Ireland made the most of conditions – both the pitch and the weather – to secure a memorable win over England in their Super 12s match in Melbourne, winning by 5 runs on DLS.
Andrew Balbirnie marshalled his bowling options superbly to stay ahead of the game on a day where England fluffed their lines. Balbirnie also thrived with the bat, winning Player of the Match as Ireland defeated their neighbours for the second time in a World Cup and their first win in T20Is.
England captain Jos Buttler won the toss and chose to chase, reasoning that England would be advantaged if the forecast for rain shortened the match. And that decision appeared justified only 9 balls in when the rain halted proceedings. Although the innings resumed with no overs lost, the interruption soaked up all the slack in the playing schedule.
Immediately after the rain delay, Paul Stirling was dropped over the boundary for six by Sam Curran. But Stirling was not so lucky two balls later, when an identical upper-cut was held at Deep Third. Despite the early setback, Balbirnie and Tucker got stuck into their work, scoring quickly as the England bowlers erred with both line and length.
The duo would raise an 82-run partnership before Tucker was run out backing up when Adil Rashid deflected Balbirnie’s shot onto the stumps. Two balls later, Harry Tector was beaten for pace by Mark Wood, leaving the score 103/3.
Balbirnie marched on, raising an excellent innings of 62 before hauling out to Liam Livingstone. George Dockrell fell for a first ball duck, and Curtis Campher in the next over as Ireland began to slide. A collapse of 7/25 would see Ireland fall to 157 all out, where at one stage a score of over 180 looked approachable.
But if Ireland had lost momentum, the regained it almost instantly. Josh Little followed a short ball with a full ball, and had Buttler caught behind second ball without scoring. Two overs later, Alex Hales was rushed into a pull by Little, resulting in a catch a short fine-leg.
In only his third T20I, Fionn Hand was brought on for the 6th over, and found prodigious swing. So much so that his first ball was wildly down leg-side. But in his correction the next ball, Hand produced a superlative in-swinger that disturbed Ben Stokes’ off-stump. England finished the Power Play 37/3.
With the clouds looming, Ireland knew that they had the advantage on DLS and looked to maintain it. England’s Harry Brook and Dawid Malan were contained by defensive bowling, and at halfway were 63/3. Eventually, the need to score got the better of Brook, who was caught on the boundary off the bowling of Dockrell.
Aiming to stay ahead on DLS, Balbirnie returned to Little and McCarthy to keep England contained. And the latter brought about a breakthrough, with Malan top-edging to deep third. Ireland still nneeded an over of spin, for which Balbirnie turned to Gareth Delany. However, the match-up was to England’s liking, and Moeen Ali scored 6, 2 and 4 to open the 15th over to give England some momentum.
But then the rain began, and the players were ushered from the field, with Ireland leading by 5 runs on DLS. Having used up all the slack in the schedule, overs began being lost immediately, and 15 minutes later, hopes of further play were abandoned. Ireland won the match by 5 runs, and secured the two points.
Had the rain not intervened, the game was set up for a thrilling finish with England requiring 53 off 33 balls, with Ali and Livingstone at the crease. Ireland may also have been disadvantaged by being two overs behind the over-rate, meaning they would likely have had an extra fielder in the 30-yard circle. But over the 34.3 overs that were completed, there is no doubt the better team won.
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