Campher/Dockrell class steers Ireland back on T20 World Cup track

Ireland's Curtis Campher (R) shakes hands with Scotland players at the end of the ICC mens Twenty20 World Cup 2022 cricket match between Ireland and Scotland at Bellerive Oval in Hobart on October 19, 2022. - -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

Trailing the game for nearly three quarters of it and looking within minutes of checking out the tournament entirely, Ireland somehow managed to turn their World Cup around through an unbelievable partnership from Curtis Campher and George Dockrell, suddenly leaving Scotland as the ones under pressure for Friday’s deciders. That is, as long as the rains stay away.

For the first time all week, the sun shone true on Bellerive Oval. The skies were a hazed blue, and the Irish supporters came in their Wednesday best, the day start being a far cry from Monday’s 8pm opening ball. And the pitch, the same strip used on Monday, was baked with an extra couple of days’ sun.

From the moment Josh Little zipped a few past Michael Jones in the opening over, the difference could be felt. This wasn’t the sticky, slow pitch from earlier in the week. This was bouncier, quicker, and perhaps just what these two teams and their mid-range pace attacks needed. The lack of any genuine pace or variation has given both sides a reputation for having bowlers who can truly go the distance on a bad day, but the hope was that Bellerive’s extra juice would make up for that. Two more swings and misses from Jones, this time off Adair.

Scotland were wary early on after the early loss of Monday’s anchor George Munsey. Jones continued to struggle with timing. Cross continued to struggle with the short ball, ducking under head height balls and heading one to short fine leg to prompt another concussion check. It was beginning to look like the same kind of bog they had found themselves in late on against the West Indies.

There was no turning point in the innings, not really. You could look at Balbirnie’s drop at short cover or the odd inclusion of spin in the power play or Jones finally finding out that his bat has a middle, but really Ireland just slowly lost the ability to find chances, and Scotland slowly remembered how to hit. losing cross to a poor shot didn’t put a dent in the steady acceleration, and by the time Jones found Blundstone Arena’s roof off josh little, his wafty start had been entirely made up for. Ireland resorted to pinging the ball into the turf from all corners to try and juice it up, earning some odd looks from umpires, but it didn’t stop Barry McCarthy from being taken apart by Richie Berrington.

The pair started to find the rope with regularity, before the captain slogged out to unleash the Leask, promoted even further than he was last game. Having been used as a pinch slogger for a few years now, Michael Leask has finally been able to pull it off on a relatively regular basis, with some good performances in the 2021 cup as well as in the warm up. There were to be no doubts about his approach here, but it was Jones who made the first blows in the aimless swing phase, pumping into the ether Barry McCarthy for seven, although the following free hit could only find the long on fielder. McCarthy then tried to bowl himself out in exclusive short wide ones, which limited the damage on his figures to a mere 59.

At this point, Scotland looked comfortable to defend, and a dropped catch aside, they began as they intended to finish. The plan even worked better than it did the first time around, as Brad Wheal got some zip with the new ball and kept the Irish opening pair to singles and dots. By the time it came for Scotland’s spin lid to come on, both openers were back in the sheds, falling to a sharp catch and a wild swipe respectively. But these two teams are more similar than just their Celtic origins. As the ball lost its shine and the sun continued to bake onto the pitch, so too were Scotland’s medium pacers ready to be served.

In truth, the four wickets Scotland had plucked out were not as valuable as they might have thought. With a top order struggling for form, it wasn’t the worst luck that Curtis Campher happened to be the man at the crease when the ball movement dried up and the half-trackers came. From an innings where the team showed little plan and even less power, he found a way to improvise in a way that never seemed risk, going 20 balls without a single dot and punishing both good and poor bowling. Even the miserly Mark Watt was sent for eighteen in a single over, as the improbable 11 runs required from early turned to a relatively walkable eight.

The flow didn’t stop, and much like Ireland in the first innings, Scotland couldn’t seem to generate so much as a half-chance. George Dockrell, whose famed reinvention has come with a bit of a ‘finisher’ tag after strong performances against Afghanistan, turned his supporting knock into a fine one of his own. The only reply Scotland could find was to use their remaining trump card, a final over from Watt – but after a tight start, Campher pulled out the invention to nab seven runs from the final two balls, and put the match beyond doubt.

Don’t call it a revolution, as the win almost entirely came on the back of one man, but Ireland have done enough to keep themselves in the competition ahead of Friday’s potential knockout day. Behind in the game for most of its duration and not being given a chance even by their own fans, Ireland adapted well to the lessons learned in the first innings. But really it was just a remarkable innings from an emotional Curtis Campher, supported well by George Dockrell, that Scotland could only applaud.

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