‘It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,’ proclaims the song, the sole notable item from an obscure 1973 Broadway musical, and the truth of that adage was forcefully demonstrated this week by Ireland’s Under-19 team, who recovered from a poor start to the European Qualifier in Almería to reach next year’s World Cup in the Caribbean.
Having recovered from 139 all out against Scotland on Thursday to bundle their opponents out for 44, the Irish repeated that trick in Saturday’s final, when they again performed indifferently with the bat, only to come storming back and defend their mediocre total of 144 by dismissing Scotland for 66.
Their hero was again slow left-armer Matthew Humphreys, who followed up his four for 11 on Thursday with five for 25 this time, starting the Scottish collapse by having Samuel Elstone caught behind off the fourth ball of their reply.
Bowling his ten overs unchanged, he added the scalps of Gabriel Gallman-Finlay and Tomas Mackintosh by the time the total had reached 31, and when he completed his spell the Scots were on 46 for eight and the match was effectively over.
Humphreys was again well supported by Nathan McGuire, who claimed two for 14 with his seven overs of off-spin, while keeper Joshua Cox backed up his bowlers with three catches behind the stumps.
Earlier, McGuire had also played a notable part with the bat, opening the Irish innings with a 50-ball 43 out of his side’s first 63 runs and sharing a first-wicket stand of 60 with Jack Dickson; in the context of the game as a whole this start looked even more significant than it had in real time.
So too did the contributions of Scott MacBeth (27) and Liam Doherty (21), who defied the Scottish bowlers when they were threatening to take control of the match, and who took the score from 70 for five to 123 for seven.
Oliver Davidson was once more the lynchpin of the Scots’ attack, his three for 22 confirming him as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 14 at an average cost of 6.71, while Jack Jarvis was even more economical, taking three for 16 from his ten overs; there was also a three-wicket haul for Lyle Robertson, who cleaned up the tail to finish with three for 29.
Thereafter, however, it was all about Matthew Humphreys, to whom the Scottish batters could find no answer, and Ireland emerged from a testing week as Europe’s representatives in the 2022 World Cup.
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